Every three hours, a person is struck by a train. It’s a sobering statistic, but it brings to light just how dangerous railroad tracks can be.

While trains are incredibly safe for passengers (considerably safer than personal automobiles), the railroad right-of-way is no place for cars or pedestrians. Operation Lifesaver, an organization through which I volunteer, is a nonprofit committed to reducing the number of intentional trespasser incidents on the railroad.

In honor of Operation Lifesaver’s Rail Safety Week, here are some tips:

  • Always expect a train on all tracks at all times. Freight trains don’t run on schedules. Extra trains operate all the time. Even people like myself have encountered times where a train is coming unexpectedly. Expect a train.
  • Never walk along railroad tracks. Trains move much faster than your brain believes; don’t expect to be able to get out of the way, yet alone being able to see and hear a train approaching.
  • Don’t cross railroad crossings when lights/bells/crossing gates are activated. This means a train is approaching. Not only does it have the right of way, it’ll move much faster than your brain thinks.
  • Beware additional trains on adjacent tracks! I’ve seen people begin to cross immediately after a train departs but before crossing arms are raised — a second train is coming on an adjacent track and they narrowly avoid peril. Don’t take the risk.
  • If your car stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, leave it. Exit your vehicle immediately and locate the blue and white sign at the crossing.
    • Call the phone number on it and give the name and ID number listed. The train dispatcher will then radio all trains to halt in the area of the crossing.
    • If a train is approaching, run alongside the right of way at a 45º angle from the tracks in the direction of the train. This minimizes your risk of injury from any crash debris.

Most importantly, remember: Tracks are for trains. If you can read this, you are not a train.