Preventing and reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries arising from highway-rail grade crossing and railroad trespass incidents is the goal of a $1,025,000 Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant to Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), a not-for-profit railroad safety education organization.
Trespassing and highway-rail grade crossing deaths comprise approximately 95% of all rail-related fatalities in the U.S. each year. The grant funding will be used for public education and awareness programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As part of the grant agreement, OLI is required to receive 25% matching in-kind contributions from non-government sources for a total program effort of $1,366,500.
"Far too often, preventable tragedies occur because motorists and pedestrians ignore the dangers of grade crossings at railroad tracks," said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman. "Increased public knowledge will result in more people making the right safety decisions around the rails."
Since 1995, the highway-rail grade crossing collision rate has declined from 6.92 to 3.84 per million train miles, reaching an all-time low in 2005. And, the number of deaths resulting from train-vehicle collisions has decreased by 38.5%, from 579 to 356, over the same period. Unfortunately, the number of fatalities resulting from trespassing on railroad property has remained fairly constant at approximately 500 per year.
Today's grant supplements the FRA's wide-ranging highway-rail crossing safety and trespass prevention program that includes numerous engineering, enforcement and educational initiatives. It also supports the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Rail Safety Action Plan and the Secretary of Transportation's Action Plan for Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention, the blueprint for federal efforts to combat these problems.
Recent actions taken by FRA include: a safety advisory stressing the railroad industry's role in preventing grade crossing accidents; a rule requiring the sounding of the locomotive horn at all public grade crossings unless the crossing is sufficiently protected by warning devices and other safety measures; and a rule requiring reflective materials on locomotives and freight railcars to give motorists an additional visual warning of a train that is occupying a crossing in poor weather or lighting conditions.