Operation Lifesaver rolls into Region 8

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

PIGGOTT, AR (KAIT) - Operation Lifesaver rolled into Region 8 this week.

The educational program is designed to help motorists and pedestrians understand the dangers of railroad crossings.

The track that runs through Paragould is mainline Union Pacific which means these trains can go as fast as 60 miles an hour or more.

Piggott like Paragould  is divided by this speedway.

The small town of Piggott 8 crossings some have gates, some have lights and some are just a stop sign and the crossed arms.  Police Chief Bill Alstadt says his officers have to be extra vigilant.

"People try to go around the crossing gates and they catch them at the crossing that just has lights. And they don't want to wait a lot of times they are in a hurry. We see it pretty regularly."

Arkansas ranks 19th in overall crossing accidents but unfortunately ranks 8th in fatalities based on 2009 numbers.

Trying to reduce these numbers even more is what Operation Lifesaver is all about.

John Simpson is the Union Pacific's Public Safety Manager for this area.  He rides along on the Operation Lifesaver train to educate the public as they ride along as passengers.

"If we can educate the public about what trains can and can not do. What the signs and signals mean. We feel that these incidents and collisions can be prevented."

As we waited in Piggott for the passenger train a freight train rapidly approached  and in spite of the flashing lights two ladies crossed in front of the oncoming train. Just as dangerous as driving in front of the train. They were stopped by Union Pacific Railroad Police and told that crossing even on foot was the wrong thing to do. "We saw the train." was the response.

Simpson, "There's a crossing collision or trespass injury or fatality about every two hours in the United States. It happens all too often. We feel they are preventable. "

Compared to some years I have ridden these trains this trip was pretty good. Very few violators.

As we began to roll out with the bell ringing and the horn sounding the crossing gates began to descend. A yellow truck jumped across the tracks.

Then on the return trip from St. Francis a gray cars' driver found his  name on a ticket book.

Chief Alstadt watched our two incidents from the cab and offered his observations on car train accidents.

"People need to be mindful of the trains. They have the right of way and to watch really close traffic . Watch the lights, listen for those signals."

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