By Railfan & Railroad Staff
WASHINGTON — Nearly 500 police and sheriff’s departments across 43 states and the District of Columbia are joining the Amtrak Police Department and Operation Lifesaver Inc., to conduct Operation Clear Track, the single largest railroad safety law enforcement detail in U.S. history. The effort is part of the 5th annual Rail Safety Week, which is running from September 20 to 26.
Operation Clear Track was created to help reduce the approximately 2,000 serious injuries and deaths that occur each year on the nation’s railroad tracks. This week, officers will report to high-incident railroad crossings within their jurisdictions around the country to share safety tips, enforce state grade crossing and trespassing laws and issue citations and warnings to violators. Over the years, this rail safety detail has resulted in thousands of citations and warnings to drivers and trespassers who were largely unaware that they were in violation of the law.
“We can’t say this enough, trespassing on train tracks is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal in all 50 states,” said Amtrak Chief of Police Samuel Dotson. “Every time someone trespasses on the tracks, it can lead to devastating results which impact someone’s life, their family, and the community at large.”
Law enforcement officials will distribute pocket safety cards to the public, during the exercise, to teach drivers and pedestrians how to be safe around trains and train tracks. In addition to police, many first responders, transportation departments and emergency management offices across the country have joined the campaign virtually, sharing relevant social media content and safety messages that emphasize the importance of complying with state laws related to driving or traveling near railroad tracks.
“Every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train,” said Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Executive Director Rachel Maleh. “While we have made strides in reducing deaths and injuries, the goal of Operation Clear Track and other Rail Safety Week activities is empowering individuals and communities to make safe choices around railroad tracks and trains and raising rail safety awareness. We appreciate the ongoing safety partnership of the first responder community.”