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Most parents minimize danger of rail crossings, researchers find

Photo: Safe Kids Worldwide

Washington — A teen or child is killed every five days from injuries related to railroad crossing or trespassing in the United States, yet a majority of parents “generally do not rate the issue as a major safety concern for themselves or their child,” according to a recent report from Safe Kids Worldwide.

Researchers analyzed 2009-2018 data from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted an online survey of more than 2,300 parents about rail safety awareness. They found that 70% of the parents did not view “walking on, near or along train tracks” as trespassing despite its standing as the most common form of the behavior. Additionally, 71% of the parents with teens said they are not concerned about their teen being hit by a train.

Other findings:

  • Fatal and nonfatal rail crossing and trespassing incidents among 15- to 19-year-olds occurred at a rate of 0.81 per 100,000 – nearly four times that of children 10 to 14 (0.22) and around six times that of children 5 to 9 (0.14).
  • Of the teens and children injured in rail trespassing incidents, 35% were walking and 10% were riding in a vehicle. Half of the teens and children involved in rail crossing incidents were passengers in vehicles, while 28% were driving.
  • Only 47% of the parents said they have spoken with their children about railroad safety.

“These new research findings reveal that many parents don’t realize the importance of addressing railroad safety,” Safe Kids President Torine Creppy said in a Sept. 23 press release. “We want to help parents get the little-known, but lifesaving, information they need to protect themselves and their kids.”

SafeKids – in conjunction with Union Pacific Railroad, which supported the study – offers several rail crossing safety tips:

  • Only cross tracks at a designated crossing.
  • Wait for trains to pass completely, the gates to rise and the lights to stop flashing before crossing tracks.
  • Avoid using handheld devices or headphones when crossing tracks, whether you’re walking or driving.
  • Don’t walk or take photos/videos along train tracks.

“We all need to work together to bridge the gap between the perceived and the real risks, so everyone goes home safely every day,” Erin Batt, assistant vice president and chief safety officer at Union Pacific, said in the release.

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