Operation Lifesaver, Inc. holds its first U.S. Rail Safety Week

For 15 years, Operation Lifesaver Canada has been holding its Rail Safety Week the last week of April. It is an opportunity to remind Canadians to be safe, aware and vigilant around railway tracks and property. Now, Operation Lifesaver, Inc., our counterparts in the U.S., are following our lead by organizing U.S. Rail Safety Week. The event—happening from September 24 to 30—is being spearheaded by Operation Lifesaver, Inc. and supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other safety organizations across the country. Although Operation Lifesaver, Inc. began its rail safety efforts in the U.S. back in 1972, this is the organization’s first national week dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers around railroad property and tracks. In the U.S., an incident occurs between a person or vehicle and a train every three hours. Nearly 1,000 people are injured or killed in rail trespassing incidents in the country each year. These tragedies are all preventable. The first U.S. Rail Safety Week is aimed at keeping these tragedies from happening by spreading the rail safety message to more Americans. “We felt it was very important for there to be a national focus on this. We have excellent state programs across the country that work individually to respond to the critical safety needs and the demographics in their areas,” says Libby Rector Snipe, Director of Communications for Operation Lifesaver, Inc. “But we want to see new people across the country being exposed to rail safety education messaging, people who weren't aware that this was a problem, and to let them know that they have the ability to keep themselves and their families safe.” Among the many events happening across the country is Operation Clear Track, a coordinated law enforcement presence at crossings with high incident rates. It is occurring at nearly 250 crossings in 48 states and will be the largest crossing enforcement event ever attempted in the U.S. On Friday, September 29, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. is also holding Redout For Rail Safety Day. The idea is to raise awareness by asking people to wear red at schools, at work and in their communities and then take photos, selfies or group photos and post them on social media with the hashtags #RedoutForRailSafety and #USRailSafetyWeek. Snipe says she hopes events like these will get Americans thinking differently about railroad property and tracks, and changing their behaviour as a result. But she admits it will be hard to gauge just how successful the week is. “For safety organizations, like Operation Lifesaver, it's pretty hard to measure a negative—meaning when an incident doesn't happen because someone knows how to be safe around tracks and trains,” explains Snipe. “But we hope that by launching these materials during Rail Safety Week, and by starting a dialogue that happens year-round, not just for one week in September, we will start to see those incident numbers go down over time.”