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Police hope awareness campaign will curb rail-related deaths

An Amtrak train approaches the Kirkwood train station as officers hand out railway safety information on Sept. 26, 2017.
An Amtrak train approaches the Kirkwood train station as officers hand out railway safety information.

Local, state, and federal transportation departments have teamed up with local police, Amtrak and the nonprofit organization Operation Lifesaver in a week-long campaign to warn against trespassing on railroad tracks.

This project’s goal is to reduce the number of deaths by train across the United States. Police enforcement is stationed across the nation in places where high numbers of vehicle or trespassing deaths have taken place.

Police officers in Kirkwood handed out safety information cards on Tuesday to motorists and pedestrians to help spread awareness about the dangers of walking on or driving across railroad tracks.

Last year in Missouri there were five deaths and eight people injured in railroad trespassing incidents. That was a 39 percent decrease in incidents and a 67 percent decrease in fatalities from 2015. However, there were seven deaths and 19 people injured in 36 rail crossing incidents, resulting in a 40 percent increase in fatalities from 2015, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Railroad tracks marked "No Trespassing" in Kirkwoodon Sept. 26, 2017.
Credit Chelsea Hoye | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO
Railroad tracks mark "no trespassing" in Kirkwood.

Railroad tracks are private property and pedestrians who walk on them are considered tresspassers. Missouri law requires train operators to blow their horn when approaching a public street.

But Operation Lifesaver State Director Tim Hull said due to changes in the way trains are built, they are more hazardous to those who trespass on the tracks.

“Sections of the track are not bolted together anymore. They’re much longer and they’re welded together. They’re much smoother, the locomotives are electric diesel so they’re much quieter. The suspension on the trains is much smoother, so it doesn’t shake the ground quite as much,”  Hull said.

Operation Clear Track will continue on to Kansas City, Sedalia, and Holden, Missouri, this week.

“Always remember to look and listen. If you see tracks, think train because anytime is train time. And that’s why we’re out here — just to remind people just to pay attention when they approach those tracks,” Hull said.