On your next “physical distance walk” keep one ear out—and stay safe

Many Canadians are struggling to find ways to keep busy during the COVID-19 crisis. Going for a walk has become part of many people’s daily routine. But staying safe while out walking means keeping a two-metre distance from others. It also means staying clear of railway tracks—and keeping one ear out if you’re wearing headphones.  

Headphones keep you from hearing what’s going on around you—and that can be deadly if you’re walking anywhere near train tracks. Unfortunately, this is something Tiffany Williams’ family knows too well.

In October 2014, the 16-year-old was hit and killed by a train in Maple Ridge, B.C. while walking along the tracks near her house. She didn’t hear the train’s whistle because she was wearing headphones. Tiffany’s story is featured in an Operation Lifesaver #STOPTrackTragedies video which shows how one simple decision to walk along train tracks can have tragic consequences.

You can’t avoid a train if you can’t hear it coming
Too many people needlessly lose their lives because they trespass on tracks—and headphones often play a part in these tragedies. Amanda Kirchner’s family has made it their mission to prevent these tragedies from happening.
In August 2016, the 20-year-old was killed by a train in Westminster, Colorado while taking an illegal shortcut across the tracks on her way to work. She too didn’t hear the train’s whistle because she was wearing noise-cancelling headphones. A year later, her family started #OneEarOut, an educational campaign to get people to keep one ear uncovered when wearing headphones.

“My goal is to make people understand that if they are going out walking around, riding a bicycle, jogging or whatever, they should not use headphones to cover both ears. That’s all I want,” explains Amanda’s father, Ashley Kirchner.

Pedestrians: Know how to keep yourselves safe near tracks and trains
Next time you go for a walk, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and keep one ear uncovered if wearing headphones. And follow these other rail-safety rules to ensure you stay safe:
  • Stay off railway tracks, trestles, yards and equipment. They’re private property and trespassers can be fined. You could also be seriously injured or even killed.
  • Never assume a rail line is abandoned. You might never see a train on a particular section of rail, but that doesn’t mean it’s abandoned. Often, tracks can be deactivated and reactivated, so once-quiet tracks could feature a train at any time.
  • Keep your distance. Trains overhang tracks by at least one metre on each side and can carry loads that may extend even further. If you’re next to the tracks, you could be hit by a train.
  • Look for another train before crossing tracks. Only use designated railway crossings and don’t cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. Other trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly in both directions before crossing.
  • Be aware that trains don’t follow set schedules. Trains travel up to 160 km/h and can come at any time, from either direction, on any track.
So, get out there and get walking, but make sure you do it safely! Check out our website for more rail-safety resources.