a railroad grade crossing sign, lights, and warning gates

Operation Lifesaver Wins $1 Million Federal Grant

CSX Corp. Chairman Michael Ward helped launch the nonprofit's latest campaign, titled Common Sense, in July. "People don't often understand the impact of these incidents on train crews," he said then.

Operation Lifesaver, Inc., which launched the Common Sense campaign with the U.S. Department of Transportation and major railroad companies one month ago to reduce the number of pedestrian trespassers killed and injured by trains, will receive a $1,015,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to continue its work, Federal Rail Administrator Joseph Szabo announced Aug. 6. There were 2,395 grade-crossing incidents last year that resulted in 287 deaths and another 453 deaths from rail trespassing, slightly fewer than in 2007, according to the agency.

The Common Sense campaign aims at 18- to 34-year-olds, who accounted for nearly 36 percent of all railroad pedestrian casualties in 2008. States with the highest number of pedestrian rail trespass deaths in 2008 included California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Georgia, Operation Lifesaver reports.

Operation Lifesaver (OLI) is an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit safety education group trying to eliminate casualties at railroad crossings and on rail rights of way. It has programs in every state and the District of Columbia. Railroad companies taking part in the Common Sense campaign include CSX, Union Pacific, Amtrak, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, and Kansas City Southern.

"Many Americans have no idea that walking or playing around train tracks, fishing from a railroad bridge, or riding their all-terrain vehicle on railroad tracks is potentially deadly and always illegal," said Helen M. Sramek, president of OLI.

"Young adults also may be distracted by cell phones, texting, or listening to MP3 players if they're near the tracks. This new public awareness campaign has a simple message: Staying away from the tracks is common sense, and it can save your life," said Cliff Stayton, a former locomotive engineer who is director of community affairs and safety for CSX.

"Pedestrian injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks are preventable," said CSX Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Michael Ward. "People don't often understand the impact of these incidents on train crews. We are pleased to work with Operation Lifesaver, the FRA, and our industry colleagues in this important effort."

Free presentations are available for anyone who lives or travels near train tracks by calling 800-537-6224, and anyone interested in volunteering with Operation Lifesaver can sign up by calling that number.

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