Distracted driving by motorists is a big problem at rail grade crossings, Operation Lifesaver says.

Distracted Driving's Rail Impacts Displayed

Public service announcements filmed last week in Maryland by Operation Lifesaver Inc. show how distracted driving is involved in motorists' collisions with trains. Union Pacific took its safety train to El Paso Nov. 13-15.

Two public service announcements filmed in Maryland last week by Operation Lifesaver Inc., the nonprofit rail safety education organization, illustrate the dangers of distracted driving around train tracks. Maryland Midland Railway granted access to its tracks so that the spots, which are funded by a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation, could be filmed.

"While much of the media attention to this issue concerns highway incidents caused by inattentive drivers, vehicle-train incidents are also caused by drivers unaware of their surroundings due to cell phone conversations, texting, or any other activity that draws the driver's eyes away from the road." said Operation Lifesaver President Helen Sramek.

The ads will show two scenarios where distracted driving causes drivers not to notice they are approaching highway-rail grade crossings. Federal statistics show inattentive drivers contribute to approximately 3 percent of all vehicle-train crashes at highway-rail grade crossings and 20 percent of grade crossing collisions involve motor vehicles that strike trains at a crossing, according to Operation Lifesaver. For more information or to request a free safety presentation in your community, visit www.oli.org.

Last weekend, Union Pacific Railroad's safety train visited El Paso, Texas, to give children and local officials a chance to watch how motorists drive at grade crossings via TV monitors that transmit live footage from a camera attached to the front of the locomotive. "The view will give passengers the rare opportunity to observe what train crews see as they travel down the track-drivers ignoring railroad warning signals and racing across the tracks," UP said. "Trains cannot stop quickly, but drivers can," said Andy Yedlick, superintendent for Union Pacific's El Paso Service Unit. "We hope the train rides help the community understand the importance of following the law by stopping for trains to prevent deadly collisions."

Officers from the El Paso police and sheriff's departments also watched drivers at grade crossings through Union Pacific's Officer-on-a-Train program. Law enforcement officials riding on the locomotive would radio officers positioned near crossings when drivers violated traffic laws, and those officers would pull the drivers over and issue citations.

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