Preventing train-car collisions, one ticket at a time

Preventing train-car collisions, one ticket at a time

In a showdown between a train and a car, the train wins.

“An average freight train weighs 12 million pounds, that’s 6,000 tons. The weight ratio between the train and your car, is the same as the weight ratio between your car and a soda can,” said Travis Campbell with Idaho Operation LifeSaver.

Operation LifeSaver hopes to prevent those kinds of incidents from occurring in the first place.

The program is used in all 50 states, and similar programs exist around the world. But, Operation LifeSaver began in Idaho, in 1972 when the number of collisions at train crossings in the country had reached 12,000 annually.

“Our obvious goal is to get to zero incidents,” said Justin Jacobs, a spokesperson for Union Pacific Railroad.

That number today is dramatically lower, but according to the Department of Transportation, a person or car is hit by a train about every three hours.

“The whole mission behind this is to remind everyone that trains always have the right of way,” Campbell said.

How do they do it? With some help from local law enforcement…

“We get a trooper or an officer on the train with us, we go through an area, the motorists that are violating the laws, putting themselves in danger- they’re pulled over by cars that are placed along our route in strategic locations,” Campbell said.

Obey the crossing rules– or get a ticket.

The program has seen success.

“Last year in Idaho we had 20 incidents between cars and trains and four trespassing incidents,” Campbell said.

But, there is still work to be done.

“Last year whenever we did this operation, we got over 80 stops in the day,” Campbell said.

For drivers and pedestrians it’s a frustrating, but potentially life-saving reminder.

“Anywhere or anytime we have an opportunity to do an operation like this, to increase awareness for safety at railroad crossings for both pedestrians and motorists we take advantage of that,” Jacobs said.

A good rule of thumb? The program’s slogan. When you see tracks, think train. For more information about Operation LifeSaver, visit their website.