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Here in Jefferson City, we're blessed to have passenger and freight train lines that provide services, help our economy and provide picturesque views alongside the Missouri River.

However, that blessing comes with potential danger — and responsibility.

Monday was the start of Rail Safety Week, which is designed to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education, said Bryan Ross, the railroad operations manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

One of the biggest safety concerns is near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way, Ross said in a news release.

Each year, Missouri sees an average of 35 highway rail crossing collisions and five fatalities, in addition to injuries and fatalities suffered by people trespassing on train tracks.

Heed these reminders to stay safe around railroads:Freight trains don't follow published schedules; always expect a train.

A typical freight train can take more than a mile to stop.

The train you see is likely closer and faster-moving than you think.

The only safe place to cross the tracks is at a designated crossing.

Being on railroad tracks and property is not only dangerous — it's illegal.

To promote rail safety in Missouri, MoDOT partners with Operation Lifesaver Inc., a nonprofit organization and nationally recognized leader of rail safety education.

In addition to OLI's Rail Safety Week activities, MoDOT will be posting safety messages on its Missouri River Runner and MoDOT social media sites.

Fortunately, safety has improved drastically over the past few generations. Since 1976, rail fatalities in Missouri have decreased 98 percent and injuries have reduced 82 percent.

It's easy to take for granted the beauty and majesty of the trains that have come through Jefferson City our whole lives. It's also easy to overlook the need for safety.

When you're in a vehicle, on foot, riding a bike or crossing a railroad crossing in any other way, make safety your top priority.

News Tribune

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