Recently, Arizona Operation Lifesaver went into full swing. Personnel from both Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad and Grand Canyon Railway spent the day Oct. 3 trying to find ways to prevent and reduce fatalities and railroad crossings and along railroad rights-of-way.
They invited media and local elected officials along as they ran the rails between Williams and Flagstaff in an effort to raise RR safety awareness.
Since 1992, more than 6,400 people nationwide have died and more than 13,700 have suffered injuries as a result of trespassing and highway-railway crossing collisions.
Trespasser deaths increased from 471 in 1996 to 533 in 1997, a 13 percent rise.
In 1997, 43 percent of those trespass injuries were either amputations or fractures.
That same year, 533 trespassers were killed and 519 trespassers were injured on railroad property. During the same timeframe, 461 people died and 1,540 were injured as a result of collisions at highway-rail crossings.
The impact of crossing incidents is usually severe. Chances of survival are slim. While one in 150 highway collisions results in death, one in 10 train vehicle collisions ends in a fatality.
Here in Williams we're fortunate. Only about 12 trains a day pass through town — unlike Flagstaff where on the lightest day 80 trains pass through the center of its downtown.
We're also the recent recipients of an upgraded railroad crossing on Grand Canyon Boulevard that is extremely safe, attractive and a smooth ride to boot.
But let's not get lax. Railroad officials make this comparison to stress what rail-car impact equates: A locomotive hitting a car is equivalent to your car running over a can of soda pop.
Through Operation Lifesaver, the message of railroad safety is getting spread.
Locally, Ervin H. White, GCRY trainmaster/safety director, said he will gladly make presentations on this topic to youth and civic groups. Take him up on this offer by calling him at 635-5359. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org