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This year, we have seen a record number of people killed by trains. The most recent were two that were killed this past week.

  • Monday morning, in Winona a 51 year old man was killed when he was hit by a Canadian Pacific Railway train, as he walked south at the railroad crossing on Johnson Street in Winona . There are no lights or signals at the crossing.
  • Tuesday evening, a 24 year old man was killed by a Burlington Northern/Santa Fe train in Litchfield. There were headphones found at the scene and the claim is made that he was wearing them.

What happened in each of these cases is still being investigated. History tells us that the railroad companies may not go out of their way to find evidence helpful to any family of the people killed. So early evidence gathering and the search for all of the available witnesses can be vital to find out what really happened.

These two deaths, bring the years total of railroad deaths to 11, which is over double the number from last year which was 5. It is the highest total in a decade. As a result the state has sent out a safety warning pointed out that a 2008 law makes it illegal to walk on tracks. They also said that fewer than one-third of the 4,362 railroad crossings in the state have warning devices.

Minnesota Operation Lifesaver does offer the following safety suggestions:

Basic Safety Tips at Highway-Rail Crossings

Expect a train at any time.
You can’t be sure when a train may appear at a crossing, even if it’s one you drive or walk across every day. Freight trains don’t travel on a regular schedule and the schedules for passenger trains can change. Always be alert, because trains can run any time of day or night, on any track, in any direction.

Don’t be fooled—the train is closer and faster than you think!
In the same way that airplanes can seem to move slowly, your eyes can play a trick on you when a train is approaching—an optical illusion that makes a train seem farther away and moving more slowly than it really is. Don’t take chances—it’s easy to misjudge a train’s speed and its distance, especially at night. If you see a train, just wait.

Trains can’t stop quickly or swerve—be prepared to yield.
After fully applying the brakes, a loaded freight train traveling 55 miles an hour takes a mile or more to stop. A light rail train can take 600 feet to stop, and an 8-car passenger train traveling 80 miles an hour needs about a mile to stop. Even if the engineer can see you, it’s too late to stop the train in time to prevent a collision.

Stop and wait when gates are down or lights are flashing.
If the gates are down, the road is closed and you must stop and wait—that’s the law. Continue across after the gates go up and the red lights stop flashing.

Check all tracks before crossing.
If you’re at a crossing with more than one set of tracks, be very careful after a train passes. Before you begin to cross, be sure that another train isn’t coming on another track from a different direction—the first train can hide the second train.

Don’t get trapped on the tracks.
Never drive onto a railroad crossing until you’re sure you can clear the tracks on the other side without stopping. If your car stalls or is trapped on the tracks, get everyone out right away, even if you don’t see a train coming. Move quickly away from the tracks. If a train is coming, move in its direction as you move away from the tracks. If you run the same direction the train is going, you could be injured by flying debris when the train hits your car. When you’re at a safe distance from the crossing, call 9-1-1 or the railroad emergency number posted at the crossing.

Don’t trespass on foot.
Tracks and the property alongside them—the right of way—are private property. Stay off railroad cars and tracks. Don’t trespass—it’s illegal and too often it’s deadly.

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