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Working to help put the brakes on train collisions in the Toledo area

Volunteers spoke with motorists who were stopped at a crossing on Sylvania Avenue Tuesday
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 8:57 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Hundreds of people are killed or injured every year in the United States after being hit by a train while in a vehicle. The Federal Railroad Administration said Ohio is in the top ten when it comes to collisions. For the past 50 years, Operation Lifesaver has been working to reduce the numbers.

The numbers clearly tell the story of an ongoing, and often deadly, problem in America.

Alan Stouder, the State Coordinator for Ohio’s Operation Lifesaver, said it’s common for pedestrians or vehicles to be struck by trains.

“Every three hours somewhere in the United States a pedestrian or vehicle is hit by a train,” Stouder said.

Stouder said Ohio continues to be near the top of the list when it comes to tragedies on the tracks.

“In 2021, Ohio was the 9th worst in the nation for vehicle train collisions and the 6th worst in pedestrian incidents. During my more than two decades of work with Operation Lifesaver, I don’t think Ohio has been out of the top ten. We need to do better.”

Operation Lifesaver volunteers, along with people from the Ohio Rail Development Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation, were part of an effort at this crossing on Sylvania Avenue Tuesday.

When cars were stopped for a train, they offered up a few quick safety reminders. Allen Bell is with the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

“Every five years, Ohio goes through what’s called a Safety Action Plan,” Bell said. “The numbers have increased with regards to fatalities. That includes train fatalities with people in vehicles as well as pedestrians.”

And here are more sobering numbers to consider before you decide to go around activated gates.

“A train going 50-55 mph will take a mile to a mile and a half to stop. That’s over 18 football fields for a train to stop once they apply the brakes,” Stouder said train collisions are an avoidable tragedy. “When you see tracks, you always need to think train,” he added.

Bell said active warning devices at crossings which include lights, gates, and bells have helped save a lot of lives, but too many people are still dying. “We need you to slow down. We need you to stop and pay attention to the warning signs.”

Stouder said it’s a simple but potentially life-saving reminder. “If you get hit by a train you don’t get many second chances.”

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