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2009 Rail Deaths Rise to 11

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 at 3:56 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Two people killed while walking on or across railroad tracks in Minnesota in two days this week raises the number of 2009 railroad/pedestrian fatalities to 11, which has prompted the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Minnesota Operation Lifesaver to issue a safety alert.

“This is the highest number of pedestrian/rail fatalities in 10 years,” said Donna Naumann, executive director, Minnesota Operation Lifesaver. “We urge people to pay increased attention to the dangers of walking on or near railroad tracks.”

There were five rail/pedestrian fatalities in Minnesota in 2008.

A 51-year-old man was killed early Monday morning near Winona State University when he fell into the path of an oncoming Soo Line train.

A 24-year-old man was struck and killed Tuesday evening by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at a railroad crossing west of Litchfield. The train sounded its whistle prior to the accident, but the victim may have been wearing headphones at the time.

“It’s easy to misjudge a train’s speed and its distance, especially at night,” Naumann said. “It can take a mile or more for a freight train moving at 55 miles an hour to stop after the engineer hits the brakes.”

Walking on railroad tracks in Minnesota is considered trespassing. Anyone who violates this law is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a penalty.

“A 2008 law passed makes it illegal to trespass on railroad tracks or railroad property,” said William Gardner, Mn/DOT’s director of Freight, Rail and Waterways. “This law adds an extra measure of safety in urban areas where there are many new light rail transit and commuter rail lines. We encourage people throughout Minnesota to remember the danger posed by railroad tracks.”

Pedestrians should follow these railroad safety tips:

●  Walking, hunting, fishing or riding ATVs on tracks is trespassing and dangerous.
●  Vibration of rails is not always an indication of an oncoming train.
●  Check before crossing for trains moving in different directions on multiple tracks.
●  Do not throw or place objects onto railroad tracks–they can cause derailments.
●  Stay three or four feet away from railroad tracks–rail cars are wider than tracks.

There are 4,480 miles of railroad track and 4,362 railroad crossings in Minnesota. Only 30 percent of those public crossings have active warning devices.

“Expect that anytime is train time, even in locations where trains are infrequent,” says Gardner. “Stay alert for trains when approaching railroad tracks and limit distractions such as cell phones, headphones and music listening devices.”

Access the Minnesota statute (609.85) indicating that it is now illegal to trespass on railroad tracks or other railroad property at www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=609.85.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Minnesota Operation Lifesaver encourage pedestrians to “Look, Listen…& Live” when crossing or walking near railroad tracks.

For more information on railroad crossing safety, visit the Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Web site at www.oli.org.

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