Our Opinion: Troubling trend on the tracks

Statistics show a troubling trend relating to railroad tracks, according to Operation Lifesaver.

Although vehicle-train collisions have decreased slightly, death and injuries have increased, reports the national, nonprofit group dedicated to rail safety and education.

Operation Lifesaver recently released Federal Railroad Adminstration figures comparing the first quarter of this year to the first quarter of 2011.

The figures show:

• Crossing crashes down 1.4 percent, from 639 in 2011 to 629 in 2012.

• Crossing deaths up 7.5 percent, from 77 to 93.

• Crossing injuries up 24.4 percent, from 237 to 269.

Missouri crossing crashes during that period increased from 12 to 18, with fatalities rising from three to five and injuries from three to eight.

Similarly problematic are national increases in death and injuries to passengers trespassing on railroad property, including walking on tracks.

Trespassing deaths nationwide increased 12.6 percent, from 119 to 134. Trespassing injuries rose 40.4, from 99 to 134.

“Based on news accounts of incidents, texting, headphones and other distractions appear to be part of the problem,” according to Helen M. Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver. “Increasing public awareness of the need for caution near train tracks is important. Our recent public service advertising campaigns caution pedestrians to eliminate distractions around train tracks: stay focused, stay alive,”

Since 1997, she added, statistics show more people have been killed while trespassing on tracks than from vehicle-train collisions at railroad crossings.

Trains are large and noisy, and can operate only on tracks.

People, and their vehicles, are no match for locomotives.

Danger, however, is easily avoided. Stay off the tracks whenever possible. When you must cross, be cautious and alert.

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