Within the past month, Morehouse Parish has seen two individuals pass away on area railroad tracks. At the time of the first incident, Elizabeth Hutchison with Union Pacific Corporate Communications issued a statement that signed off with a message for motorists and pedestrians alike.
"We urge everyone to use extreme caution around railroad tracks, and obey all warning signs and signals," Hutchison said.
On their website, Union Pacific has published a series of safety rail/highway tips and rules to help encourage motorists to stay safe.
According to the website, driver's must treat a crossbuck as a yield sign and the motorist must stop whenever automatic signals are activated. Drivers are also obligated to not drive over the speed limit, be able to stop with an assured clear distance ahead — fifteen feet from the nearest rail in most states — and drive with reasonable care in all circumstances.
According to UP the engineer and train crew also have responsibilities at crossings, which generally include ringing the bell, blowing the whistle 1/4 mile from all public crossings or as whistle signs indicate, keeping the headlight on bright, proceeding at rates consistent with timetable speed or train safety and observing all bulletins and rules.
In Louisiana, any school, group or organization that wants to host a presentation on train safety can contact Union Pacific on their website — uprr.com — or contact Operation Lifesaver Louisiana.
Claude Maher serves as executive director for Operation Lifesaver Louisiana and said that the organization is happy to speak to groups of any size at any location at a convenient time for the group.
"We offer free safety presentations from the Pre-K to first responder level and to everyone in between," Maher said.
On both the national Operation Lifesaver website and the Louisiana page, visitors can access videos on train safety, download lessons plans and read safety tips.
For 2014 to 2015, the organization is focusing on the message "See tracks? Think train" and encourages safety at all times.
Maher also highlighted a unique piece of information covered in the organization's safety presentations for anyone who encounters a problem at a railroad crossing. At each public crossing, there is a 1800 number posted with a seven digit code (6 numeric and 1 alpha). This number contacts railroad dispatch and the code identifies the crossing. If a car stalls on the track or another impediment occurs, the number can be called to alert the dispatch center. The center can then contact trains on the line about the issue and, if necessary, have the train stop.
Additional safety tips at highway-rail crossings:
• Anytime is train time — trains can run on any track in either direction.
• Use extra caution at night — don't overdrive your headlights at night or in bad weather.
• Watch out for the second track— two tracks may mean two trains— make sure all the tracks are clear before crossing.
• Don't get boxed in — don't let traffic or gates stop you on the crossing.
• If your car stalls or stops on the crossing for any reason, get yourself and any passengers out and away quickly.
— UP Safety