Last year marked a 10-year high for drivers that died after trying to maneuver around lowered crossing gate arms at railroad crossings.
A $5.6 million public safety awareness campaign between U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is aimed at cautioning Americans about the dangers of such risky behavior.
“So many fatalities at highway-railway crossings are preventable, and this campaign is key to raising public awareness and saving lives,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.
In the last five years, 798 drivers have died while crossing railroad tracks. In 2018 alone, 270 people were killed at railroad crossings, the NHTSA reported.
The goal of the collaborative Stop. Trains Can't public safety awareness campaign is to remind drivers about the risks and hazards of crossing railroad tracks, especially when a train is approaching and active warning devices such as flashing lights or gate arms are descending or lowered.
Targeted campaign advertising will run through Sunday, May 12 including videos that will run on digital and social platforms, radio advertising, and social media messaging, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ads will be primarily aimed at high-risk communities in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.
“We are pleased to collaborate with our colleagues at NHTSA to improve driver behavior at highway-rail crossings and reduce preventable injuries and deaths,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory, in a statement. “Rail safety isn’t just about the safe movement of passenger and freight trains; it’s also about helping the American public be safe near railroad tracks.”
Neither freight nor passenger trains can stop easily to avoid cars or other vehicles on the tracks. Trains cannot swerve out of the way, and a freight train traveling 55 mph can take more than a mile to stop, even when emergency brakes are applied, according to the agencies.