"The charge is clear: We know we're heading in the right direction on rail safety, but we must do better."
Those were the words of Deputy Secretary John Porcari yesterday at the biennial Operation Lifesaver Symposium.
Operation Lifesaver has been one of our staunchest allies in the fight to raise public awareness about rail safety. For nearly four decades, this group has been educating people about the dangers of rail crossings and railroad rights-of-way. And DOT has been proud to support their work.
At the symposium, Deputy Secretary Porcari commended Operation Lifesaver for the great work they’ve done, and he offered particular thanks for their participation in our campaign against distracted driving throughout the transportation industry.
But he also had this key message:
“Today, the United States is making historic investments to enhance and expand passenger and freight rail systems across the nation. As rail traffic--and rail speeds--increase, so, too, will the risks to track workers, inspectors, signalmen, and the citizens who live and work near grade crossings and other rail infrastructure. We must all redouble our efforts to find new ways to make rail transportation even safer."
The Deputy Secretary highlighted three critical areas where Operation Lifesaver can continue to make a difference:
- Continuing to educate motorists on how to safely navigate grade crossings, avoid distractions, and recognize the added risks arising from an increase in train traffic;
- Working even more closely with state and local leaders and law enforcement agencies to advocate for consistent enforcement of traffic safety laws and court-imposed penalties on violators who trespass on private rail property; and
- Supporting engineering improvements, such as the addition of flashing lights and gates at highway-rail crossings, warning systems, and better signage.
When Operation Lifesaver opened its doors in 1972, there were more than 12,000 collisions between trains and motor vehicles annually. By 2009, that number was down to about 1,900, and we owe Operation Lifesaver our gratitude for their role in that dramatic reduction.
Now, as the Obama Administration expands our nation’s railways, we must work together to keep that number down or get it even lower. DOT and safety partners like Operation Lifesaver will continue to make the rail industry--and all forms of transportation--safer for generations to come.