With increased traffic everywhere and the distractions of the season, many people will pay less attention to what is happening on train tracks, Sramek noted. "Our number-one safety tip is 'Always expect a train.'"
While the number of fatalities has been reduced significantly in the 35 years Operation Lifesaver has been making safety presentations across America, there is still work to be done.
Preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics for 2006 show that 1,403 Americans were killed or injured in vehicle-train collisions, and 989 pedestrian-rail trespass deaths or injuries occurred nationwide.
Operation Lifesaver is a national, non-profit safety education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights of way. The group's 3,000 certified presenters throughout the United States are trained to give free safety talks.
Rail Safety Tips for Winter Travel
1. Slow down.
Winter weather hampers vision for pedestrians and drivers. Snow-covered roads and parking lots can spell disaster.
2. Stay focused.
Keep your eyes on the road. Hang up your cell phone, remove earphones, turn down your personal music and quit text messaging while driving or walking near tracks.
3. Stop 15 feet from crossing.
Whether you are on foot or in a vehicle, stay at least one car-length's distance from the crossing at all times.
4. Observe all lights and signals.
If a signal appears to malfunction,
Call the 1-800 number at the crossing. Check for a second train and an upright gate before crossing.
5. If stuck, get out of your vehicle.
If your vehicle stalls on the tracks, move quickly away. Call 911, and alert law enforcement of the vehicle's exact location.
The full list of "Rail Safety Tips for Winter Travel" can be found at www.oli.org. Call 1-800-537-6224 to schedule a free safety presentation.