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Commentary: Crossing safety a serious business

Alberta RCMP are reminding motorists of some train track safety practices

With rail traffic a key part of the region’s economy, including for the movement of agricultural and petroleum products produced in the district, the community is criss-crossed with tracks and road crossings, both controlled and non-controlled. 

And while trains remain among the safest ways to transport goods, there is an ever-present danger that comes with rail traffic, particularly for motorists and passengers crossing tracks in towns and in surrounding rural areas.

As such, a new information campaign spearheaded by the RCMP and its stakeholder partners aimed at reducing train-motor vehicle collisions is both timely and welcome.

“Please stay alert and obey all railway signs and warning devices,” says Staff Sergeant Brent Meyer of Central Alberta District RCMP, “Those few seconds may save your life or the lives of your passengers.”

Alberta RCMP are reminding motorists of some of the practices that can be used to ensure safety when crossing train tracks, including the following:

• Stay alert.  Do not use your cell phone or other devices while driving. Today’s trains are fast and extremely quiet, so if you are distracted when approaching a railway crossing, you are putting your life, and the life of your passengers, in danger. 

• Never race a train. A train hitting a car is like a car running over a pop can: the average train weighs more than 5.5 million kilograms. In comparison, a car weighs about 1,375 kilograms. Because of a train’s size, it is also hard to judge how far away it is or what speed it is travelling at.

• Know your railway signs. Railway signs and warning devices are installed along roads and at railway crossings to warn drivers and control traffic. They save lives, so get to know what they mean.

• Look and listen for trains. When approaching a railway crossing, slow down, look both ways and listen for trains. Turn down any music, ask passengers to be quiet and open your window to better hear approaching trains. 

• Always obey and adhere to all railway signs and warning devices. At railway crossings with active warning devices, remain stopped until the gates are fully raised and the lights stop flashing. Before proceeding through any railway crossing, ensure you have a clear view of the tracks and are certain no other trains are approaching.

More than 100 Canadians are seriously injured or killed as the result of railway crossing or trespassing incidents each year, according to Operation Lifesaver, an organization dedicated to railway crossing safety. 

Residents and visitors are encouraged to follow the safety rules outlined in this worthwhile new campaign.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.