A lone Union Pacific engine made several passes through Buckner Thursday afternoon, underlining the point about safety at rail crossings.
Specifically, drivers need to be undistracted, need to pay attention and need to not take chances.
“We try to explain to people: We can’t stop the train,” said Lindsey M. Douglas, the Union Pacific’s director of public affairs and corporate relations in Missouri and Kansas. A fully loaded train at 50 mph takes more than one mile to come to a stop, the railroad says.
The UP and other railroads, under a program called Operation Lifesaver, will periodically run engines back and forth at crossings as a visible reminder to drivers. Police are usually on hand to write tickets, but the railroad says that’s not the real intent. The idea is to raise awareness.
The UP says so far in 2017, in Missouri alone, it’s had 16 rail-crossing incidents, with two fatalities and 10 injuries, That compares with seven fatalities and 18 injuries in 35 incidents for all of 2016. Nationwide, there were more than five incidents a day last year and five fatalities a week, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
A big concern is drivers racing to beat a train.
“You never win in that scenario,” Douglas said. “The train is going faster than it looks.”
An accident also puts the train crew at risk – both the physical risk from flying debris and the psychological toll of being involved in someone else’s death.
“It could be devastating for our (employees) as well …” Douglas said.
The train in Buckner on Tuesday made pass after pass at the city’s three crossings with flashing lights and cross-guards – at Sibley, Hudson and Central streets. But Douglas said to be aware at all crossings, including those with what are called crossbucks – posted signs at every crossing that lacks lights.
“That means you have to yield,” she said.
If your vehicle gets stuck on the tracks, get everyone out, Douglas said, and call 911 or call the railroad number that’s posted at crossings. The railroad needs to know so it can stop oncoming trains.
One more concern: Taking a selfie on the tracks.
“That’s a very unsafe practice,” Douglas said.