A nationwide increase in railroad crossing incidents in 2014 sparked a new railroad safety campaign including a video public service announcement to combat dangerous driver behavior at railroad crossings.
"Arkansas was in the top 15 nationwide for railroad injuries in 2014," said Sheryl Dudley, Arkansas state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver (OLI), the nonprofit organization that launched the "See Tracks? Think Train!" campaign last year.
"It’s sad to know. We haven’t been in the top 15 since 2009," she said.
Arkansas experienced 37 railroad trespasser casualties between 2012 and March of 2015, increasing in 2014 to 12 casualties from 8 in 2013. As of March, there were six trespasser incidents in 2015.
Highway-rail incidents, where railroad tracks intersect at a public or private thoroughfare, sidewalk or pathway, increased from 37 in 2013 to 56 in 2014.
There were seven fatalities in Arkansas last year, putting the state at No. 14 for railroad fatalities.
In Faulkner County, there was one incident in 2013 and one in 2014, equalling 5.4 percent of the total incidents statewide.
Dudley and volunteers from Union Pacific Railroad distributed promotional material for the campaign at railroad crossings near Simon Park on Wednesday while trains passed by as part of the Positive Enforcement Program.
"It’s a reward for people who abide by the rules," said Bill Huston, manager of train operations for Union Pacific Railroad.
"We try to do this at locations that are high traffic areas to educate the public."
The U.S. was one of more than 40 countries that worked together to promote safety at railroad crossings Wednesday, International Level Crossing Awareness Day.
Dudley said the video public service announcement demonstrates in a compelling way the potential danger that drivers face at highway-rail grade crossings and the tremendous force of a train hitting a car on the tracks.
"Operations Lifesaver’s mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property," she said.
According to statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), collisions between trains and motor vehicles has decreased 83 percent since the organization’s beginning in 1979 from approximately 12,000 collisions to 2,087.
However, the 51.4 percent increase in incidents in 2014 caused concern for OLI, driving coordinators to implement the campaign nationwide.
For more information on OLI, visit www.oli.org.
(Staff writer Jessica Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 505-1277 or on Twitter @jmthauser. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to thecabin.net. Send us your news at thecabin.net/submit.)