Advocates share pedestrian railroad safety tips

ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After two fatal train accidents over the weekend, railroad safety officials want to remind everyone to stay safe around train tracks. In 2022, more than 40 railroad crashes occurred in New York, causing three deaths and seventeen injuries, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. And rail passenger advocates like Steve Strauss, Executive Director of the Empire State Passengers Association, said the numbers have been worsening.

“The train speeds in the Albany area are among the highest in the state. Because Amtrak controls a lot of that right of way,” Strauss said. “People should never cross tracks except at signalized intersections.

The non-profit group New York Operation Life Saver provides safety courses for first responders and bus drivers from instructors in the railroad industry. Their website also shares safety videos on what a driver must do if stuck on the tracks, along with pedestrian safety tips. For example, pedestrians should walk on paved railroad trails instead of along the railroad tracks.

During his courses, Phil Merens, State Coordinator of New York Operation Life Saver, said he shares a sobering fact with conductors and engineers.

“If you drive a train for ten years, there’s a great chance that you…your train…will hit and kill somebody,” he said.

Merens said the accident would not be the driver’s fault since it takes a mile or more for a train to stop at 55 miles per hour. He also shared that even though about a third of accidents are from suicides, the rest are due to either a person being distracted while listening to music or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“So by the time an engineer sees somebody, the only thing they can do is put it into emergency mode, and usually we’re sitting right by a crossing, and you can see about a ¼ of a mile in each direction,” Merens said. “That’s obviously not enough to stop.”

Railroad advocates share that the best thing the public can do when seeing any track is immediately think a train could be coming and look both ways.

“We’re in a modern age with precise engineering has made trains-they’re still incredibly powerful- but they’re much more silent, much quieter any you don’t hear them,” Phil Merens said. “You just don’t hear them until they are right on top of you.”

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