OpinionExpert: People underestimate railroad collision risks

Expert: People underestimate railroad collision risks

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Utah saw 13 railroad-crossing collisions that included three fatalities in 2020, according to the most recent data available from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Every five days, a child in the United States is killed in a train collision, said Buck Russel, manager of public safety for Union Pacific Railroad. So, Safe Kids Worldwide has new resources and materials to help raise awareness for families to prevent railroad-related injuries and deaths involving children.

Since 2018, Russel said, there’s been a 35% increase nationwide in the number of trespassing collisions on railroads. He explained that railroads are private property, so people on railroad tracks are considered trespassers – not pedestrians.

railroad risk

“It’s not a place to take wedding pictures, graduation pictures, record albums,” he said. “They have that nostalgia feeling, the train tracks, they continue on forever into the sunset. But when you get on the train tracks, you’re exhibiting those bad behaviors that our little ones are going to pick up on.”

Russel encouraged Utahns to slow down and look both ways when approaching a railroad track, and said to expect a train “in any direction at any time.” He reminded people that freight trains don’t run on set schedules as passenger trains do.

Russel said a recent report released by Safe Kids Worldwide found that a majority of parents don’t realize the importance of addressing railroad safety, despite the alarming statistics. Whether it is a railroad crossing or a collision on the tracks, he said nearly all incidents are preventable.

“Approximately every three hours, either a person or a vehicle is struck in the United States,” he said. “I know personally, when I pass it on to my family members, they’re just, like, ‘There is no way it can be every three hours.’ And it, unfortunately, really does come down to that.”

Russel said most of the collision incidents take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects around the country to improve railway safety.

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