Missouri saw an increase in fatalities at rail crossings last year. The Department of Transporation is reminding people that being patient and alert saves lives.
Forty one cars were struck by trains in Missouri last year, compared to 32 in 2009. Rod Massman is the Rail Administrator for the Department of Transportation. He says there was also an increase in fatalities, from six to eight.
He says lights and gates are at rail crossings for a reason, to provide warning and safety, but about half of the people killed chose to ignore them.
There is some good news: The department is noting a decrease in the number of pedestrians killed by trains. There were nine people were killed in 2010 compared to 12 in 2009. Most of them, he says, were walking the tracks and didn’t hear a train coming. Massman says trains are loud and have whistles, but inevitably some people on the tracks are wearing earbuds or talking on the phone, get distracted and get hit.
He says the unpredictable nature of train schedules is also a contributing factor to people letting their guard down. “Trains run at all times of the day,” he says. “Always expect them, act accordingly.”
Next week is Rail Safety Week. Missouri has more than 4,000 miles of railroad tracks and almost 4,000 public highway-rail crossings. State officials have prepared a public service announcement promoting rail safety and plan numerous events next week to raise awareness.