CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — South Carolina law enforcement and safety experts are giving out information that could save a life when drivers and pedestrians come across train tracks.
In 2022, there have been 24 accidents involving trains in South Carolina with 12 injuries and four deaths.
“Really these things shouldn’t happen. There’s no excuse for them to happen,” said Nick Pye, a Trooper with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. “This is one of the issues where unfortunately every year we lose good people to train versus vehicle collisions or train versus pedestrian collisions.”
2022 is the 50th year anniversary of Operation Lifesaver, an organization that teaches people about safety around train tracks. Janice Cowen, the state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, says most of the fatal accidents in South Carolina happen when there are safety measures in place.
“We want to make sure people are very aware that if those gates are down or they’re going up that they need to make sure they stay put behind those gates. An astonishing 72% of fatal crashes at crossings in South Carolina happen at gates,” Cowen said.
Trooper Pye and Cowen want drivers and pedestrians to think that there could be a train coming at any time when they come to a railroad crossing.
“When you come up to a train crossing it’s important to always think train no matter if the crossing arms are down or not. But, especially when the cross arms are down make sure you look for those advanced warning signs,” said Trooper Pye.
When you come to a crossing listening and looking both ways comes first. Then, if the crossing arms are down and the lights are flashing you need to wait until the train passes by and the arms go up to cross the tracks.
It’s rare that a train is at fault from an accident, and Pye says that accidents frequently involve a fatality.
“More times than not when you talk about a vehicle versus a train it’s not going to be a good outcome for the vehicle or that driver,” Pye said.
Other ways to keep safe are to not drive under the influence and stay off of your phone when driving.
“We see it all. We might see somebody that just doesn’t pay attention, then we might see somebody who knows the train is coming, hears the horns and tries to run across and beat the train. It’s not smart,” Pye said.
Operation Lifesaver encourages people to visit their website to find learning resources for everyone from children to truck drivers.
“It’s just not worth it,” Cowen said. “It really falls in our hands to listen for that train and stop if we see one coming.”
Railroad Safety Week 2022 runs from Monday to Sunday.