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Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - October 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company

Accident cause report released
Houston County Courier -  October 2009

WASHINGTON, DC. - Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) the national, nonprofit railroad safety education organization, says that inattentive drivers contribute to approximately three percent of all vehicle-train crashes at highway-rail grade crossings; and that 20 percent of grade crossing collisions involve motor vehicles striking trains at a crossing. 
These statistics are relevant in Texas, the state with the highest number of crossing crashes, following the U.S. Department of Transportation's Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC.
“Texas continues to lead the nation for the number of crossing collisions and pedestrians who are injured while trespassing along train tracks,” said Sally Tingle, Texas Operation Lifesaver state coordinator. 
“Public awareness is critical if our goal is to change behavior and save lives,” Tingle noted.
In Texas there were 229 collisions last year, resulting in 95 injuries and 17 deaths, federal statistics show. An additional 50 Texans were injured and 31 killed on or around train tracks last year.
“Distracted driving can lead to serious consequences at highway-rail grade crossings,” said OLI President Helen M. Sramek, who attended the Washington meeting.
“In addition to the tragic deaths and injuries caused by car-train collisions, these events also are costly for communities. Emergency responders and roadways can be tied up for hours, keeping responders from other community emergencies and drivers from their jobs and homes.”
Preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics show a total of 2,397 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 2008, resulting in 286 deaths and more than 900 injuries.
Statistics also show that in 78 of the total U.S. vehicle-train collisions, the cause was listed as highway user inattentiveness, resulting in 14 deaths and 117 injuries.
Through the first six months of 2009, there were 34 highway-rail grade crossing incidents caused by highway user inattentiveness across the nation, resulting in 6 deaths and 52 injuries.
Other FRA statistics show that in 488 of last year‚s grade crossing collisions the vehicle ran into a train already present at the crossing.
Of those crashes, more than 60 percent were at crossings equipped with either gates or flashing lights, while just over 33 percent occurred at crossings with either stop signs or crossbuck warning signs.
“Although these collisions may have other causes, text-messaging or other distractions may be contributing factors,” said Sramek.
“In one incident reported by a major railroad, the motorist stopped on the track to answer the phone; another railroad notes that in more than 41 percent of the incidents where a vehicle hit a train, the vehicle did not stop.”
Sramek noted, “By reminding drivers to focus on the road, to be alert for grade crossing advance warnings signs and signals, and to always expect a train at every crossing, we can help save lives.”
Operation Lifesaver, Inc. 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.
Operation Lifesaver has programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with trained and certified presenters who give free safety talks to community groups, schools, school bus drivers, truck drivers and community organizations to raise awareness of the need for caution around railroad tracks and trains.
For more information, including driving safety tips and to request a free safety presentation in your community, call Texas Operation Lifesaver toll-free at (800) 362.2210 or visit  the websitehttp://www.texasoperationlifesaver.com/. 
In addition, visit www.commonsenseuseit.com and www.ibrakefortrains.com for facts and tips on how to stay safe around tracks and trains.

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