Every year, 2,100 North Americans are killed or seriously injured when they engage in unsafe behavior around tracks and trains. Operation Lifesaver Inc., Union Pacific Railroad and Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) program joined together Sept. 19–25 to observe Rail Safety Week (RSW) and urged the public to help #STOPTrackTragedies.
“Rail Safety Week concentrates the public awareness and education campaigns that occur all year long across the country into one jam-packed week. Each day of the week, Operation Lifesaver state programs shared rail safety messages in support of our core mission — to save lives,” says Rachel Maleh, executive director of Operation Lifesaver, Inc. “This annual event brought together Operation Lifesaver state programs, and North American safety partners — like Teens in the Driver Seat and Union Pacific — to share the rail safety message.”
The health and safety of young road users is of utmost importance for groups like TDS and Union Pacific — whose partnership began in 2018 — to educate more teen drivers about the laws and safe behaviors around railroad tracks. Since young drivers experience the highest rate of transportation-related fatalities, it is essential to focus educational outreach efforts on this target audience.
“At Union Pacific, we want to address problems we see at rail grade crossings, like what to do if a car stalls or stops on a crossing” says Union Pacific’s Senior Supervisor of Public Safety, Buck Russel. “The more we can educate road users about the blue Emergency Notification Sign with the number to call in case of an emergency, the better we can all be at avoiding collisions.”
Thanks to funding from Union Pacific, TDS continues to offer its plug-and-play, extra-curricular safety program to interested high school and junior high teen teams across the U.S. Interested schools will receive a rail safety and pedestrian safety toolkit — at no cost — and will receive support and incentives to continue delivering the safety message year-round.
“The past three years have allowed us to build our rail safety educational toolkit and establish the Track-A-Thon contest where we accept junior high and high school teen submissions that seek innovative solutions to rail grade crossing incidents,” notes Gabriella Kolodzy, TDS regional representative and TTI associate transportation researcher. “We’re excited to have amplified the rail safety message during Rail Safety Week and will continue our awareness efforts throughout the year to our young driver audience, their families and their communities.”
This year’s winners for the 2022 Track-a-Thon Competition all came from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth, Texas:
- 1st Place — Emma Chorn for a mobile app that shows train location with a notification system.
- 2nd Place — Maria Diaz for a virtual warning sign near tracks for travelers to know where the train is and includes safety messaging.
- 3rd Place — Niang Hiai for automatic ground gates.
- Honorable Mention — Deena Alabed, Nadia Marquez, Alexa Mitchell and Dulse Puga for motion sensors to detect other road users with a keypad for safe entry.
There are many ways to get involved in spreading the Rail Safety Message, whether joining TDS or signing and sharing the Operation Lifesaver Rail Safety Pledge. Together, we can #STOPTrackTragedies.