Several railroads are starting a new public relations campaign to highlight the grave dangers of walking near railroad tracks. There was a spike in rail deaths in 2013, particularly in central Virginia. The accidents there have underscored the catastrophic power of trains that cross paths with both pedestrians and drivers.
In mid 2013, railroads declared 2012 the safest year ever in both derailments and crossing accidents. But in 2013, train crossing deaths spiked by 9% overall.
The rates will vary year in and year out, and it is not clear what the rise in deaths in central Virginia was caused by. But those tragedies have prompted the federal government and railroad companies to come up with a new public campaign to cut down on these accidents in Virginia and around the US. Ads that were released two weeks ago focused on how pedestrians and cars can be obliterated by a passing train.
According to Joyce Rose, CEO of Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about railroad hazards, it is important to ensure that everyone understands to dangers they are putting themselves in at railroad crossings. She noted that a train moving at 60 MPH can take more than one mile to stop. Train conductors may not be able to stop even if they see you up ahead.
Some speculate that smart phones and other electronic devices could be behind the rise in train crossing deaths in 2013.
The main TV ad for the campaign is called See Tracks? Think Train. It shows a man walking along railroad tracks wearing his headphones. He is not aware that a train is barreling towards him.
While Virginia saw a large increase in train crossing deaths in 2013, that state is not one of the leaders in such fatalities. In 2012, the states with the most collisions were TX, CA IL, IN and GA.