Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization for rail safety education, has published a press release reporting that while rail crossing collision numbers are down slightly, deaths and injuries from collisions and pedestrian incidents have increased.
The organization's president, Helen M. Sramek, said in the release that "the increase in deaths and injuries from crossing collisions and pedestrian-train trespass incidents is a very troubling trend."
The press release went on to say that
. . . since 1997, more people have been killed while trespassing on tracks than from vehicle-train collisions at railroad crossings, according to FRA statistics.
"Based on news accounts of incidents, texting, headphones and other distractions appear to be part of the problem,” she continued. "Increasing public awareness of the need for caution near train tracks is important. Our recent public service advertising campaigns caution pedestrians to eliminate distractions around train tracks: stay focused, stay alive," Sramek concluded.
The study compared the first four months of 2012 with the first four months of 2011, so the accidents that ended the life of Mitchell Maserang in Wentzville and , were not counted in those numbers.
On Sundays, when the holds its flea market, available parking spaces fill up and people sometimes park on the north side of the tracks. The nearest legal crossing is three blocks to the east, on Linn Avenue.
Chief Lisa Harrison spoke to Patch about how the department is working to inform and educate the public about the dangers of crossing the tracks illegally.
"That's the only time we have the problem," Harrison said. "A lot of people are walking across those tracks, and it's dangerous—and illegal."
The department issued two citations on Sunday, July 15.
Harrison said that the goal was to inform and notify the public. "We were giving verbal warnings. We did end up issuing citations to a couple of people that were less than receptive. We're not going to get into shouting matches. The signs were clearly there that said No Trespassing."
"We are going to try to get out there as often as we can," Harrison said.