By Trooper Larry C. Thomas, Department of Public Safety, ALEA Public Affairs Officer-Troop D, Primary Recruiting Coordinator-Troop D
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) has joined forces with
law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada once again this year for “Operation Clear Track” — the single largest rail-safety law-enforcement initiative in North America.
Coordinated by Amtrak Police and Operation Lifesaver Inc (OLI), Operation Clear Track aims to reduce the approximately 2,000 serious injuries and deaths each year in the U.S. around railroad tracks and trains. The event is held during the annual observance of Rail Safety Week, which began on Monday, Sept. 20 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 26.
ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor said, “Operation Clear Track is an important initiative utilized by
ALEA Troopers to educate pedestrians, cyclists and drivers across the state about the various ways they can stay safe around train tracks in order to avoid a serious injury or worse. We are pleased to take part in this nationwide enforcement and safety awareness campaign to help save lives and keep our communities safe.”
ALEA Troopers have been stationed at railroad grade crossings and other various locations
across the state to distribute educational materials to citizens throughout Rail Safety Week.
ALEA offers the following railroad crossing safety tips for drivers and pedestrians:
• Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains often
change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection at any time.
• All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it’s illegal trespassing and
highly dangerous. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a
mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to
avoid a collision.
• The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons. This makes the
weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know
what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
• Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police
• A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for
pedestrians well beyond the three-foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties, always
assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
• Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes its cars are pushed by
locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail
• Today’s trains are quieter than ever. Any approaching train is always closer, moving
faster, than you think.
• Remember to cross train tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings and
obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
• Stay alert around railroad tracks. Refrain from texting, headphones or other distractions
that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
For more safety tips for pedestrians, click here. For more safety tips for drivers, click here.
For more information about Rail Safety Week, Operation Clear Track, and other rail-safety
initiatives and tips, visit www.oli.org.