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Groups teach railway safety

Ironton resident William Ridgeway stood at the Center Street railroad crossing and contemplated the dangers of railways he has learned from experience.

“You should never race trains to the railroad crossings because if it’s a tie, you lose,” Ridgeway said. “And that is true. I have raced them, I have seen guys race them. I have seen ties and they lost.”

Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit international organization, Norfolk Southern, the Ironton Police Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol promoted railway safety awareness Tuesday. The groups provided pamphlets to drivers and pedestrians who passed through the Center Street railroad crossing.

The pamphlets are used to educate drivers about warning signs and devices associated with railroad crossings.

Tom Davis, an engineer for Norfolk Southern and a volunteer with Operation Lifesaver, said it is difficult to attribute the higher number of highway-rail grade incidents, collisions and fatalities. He said the large number of miles of rail in Ohio could be a factor.

“We try to go as many places as we can,” Davis said. “I try to get into as many schools as I can and just try to heighten awareness.”

Ohio was seventh in highway-rail grade incidents, casualties and trespassing, seventh in highway-rail grade collisions and 12th in highway-rail grade fatalities in the United States in 2007, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The Federal Railroad Administration reported 4,972 deaths resulted from pedestrians being struck by trains over the past decade. The administration also said a pedestrian or driver is struck by a train in the United States every two hours.

Ironton has had five railway fatalities in the past six years.

In a press release, Shel Senek, state coordinator for Ohio Operation Lifesaver said improper use of railways is dangerous.

He said the real danger of railways are the trains because of the time it takes for them to completely stop.

Trains traveling at an angle appear to be traveling slower than they actually are making it difficult for people to consider the time they have to get across the tracks, Senek said.

He said walking on the tracks is not only dangerous, but also illegal.

“Education is coming out and talking to people,” Davis said. “Engineering is the crossing lights and things like that. The enforcement of it is the law enforcement.”

Ridgeway said the Center street crossing was a good location for drivers to be informed because of the accidents that have taken place at the crossing.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for Operation Lifesaver or receiving more information about rail safety should access the organization’s Web site at www.oli.org or call (800) 537-6224.