Railroads, Jurisdictions Observe Rail Safety Week

A CSX train passes through Marietta, Ga., in August 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Railroads and jurisdictions across the United States and Canada are observing Rail Safety Week, an event that has gone mostly virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, 2,100 North Americans are killed or seriously injured when they engage in unsafe behavior around tracks and trains, officials say. This year, the Mexican Association of Railroads (AMF) joins Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) and Operation Lifesaver Canada to observe Rail Safety Week in North America, which runs Sept. 21-27.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year Rail Safety Week will emphasize virtual activities and social media to share our lifesaving messages,” Rachel Maleh, executive director of Operation Lifesaver, said in a news release.

“We’re kicking off the week today with state and local Rail Safety Week proclamations,” Maleh added. “OLI’s national office and state Operation Lifesaver programs across the U.S. will connect with their communities virtually by sharing rail safety messages about making safe choices around trains and tracks.”

In 2019, there were 2,216 highway-rail incidents at both public and private grade crossings with 293 fatalities and 807 injuries. That compares with 2,227 grade crossing mishaps in 2018, with 260 deaths and 845 injuries.

In 2019, Texas had the most collisions with 251, resulting in 31 deaths and 123 injuries. That outpaced California, Florida, Indiana and Illinois; California had more deaths than Texas with 48.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the state has seen at least 39 incidents involving rail traffic so far this year. Of those, 24 occurred at rail crossings.

“With more than 5,600 miles of track and the highest number of operating railroads in the country, rail safety is of utmost importance in Pennsylvania,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a news release. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to be safe around rail crossings and railroad rights-of-way, and we’re proud to join our partners to commemorate Rail Safety Week.”