The view from the back of the train as it heads from Valdosta to Tifton
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -
A train barreling down the tracks is a common sight in South Georgia. Unfortunately, it's also becoming increasingly common for people and vehicles to disregard the laws and warning signs around railroad tracks.
"We know that the public doesn't perceive how dangerous it can be if they try to beat a train, pull out in front of a train, or otherwise trespass on railroad property tracks and other property," said Jennie Glasgow, coordinator for the Operation Lifesaver program in Georgia.
Monday, Operation Lifesaver partnered with Norfolk Southern to take the Peach State Whistle-Stop Safety Train on a tour of Georgia to promote railroad safety, beginning with a trip from Valdosta to Tifton. Operation Life saver is a national program that partners with railroad companies to help educate people about railroad safety across the country.
According to Operation Lifesaver's statistics, Georgia has the third highest number of railroad crossing fatalities and injuries in the country. In 2013, there were 13 casualties and 63 injuries, an increase of more than 50 percent in each category from the year before.
Walking along railroad tracks is also illegal. Something Norfolk Southern officials want to stress in hopes of decreasing the number of people getting hit by trains.
"People need to be aware that railroad property is private property. Even in a very rural area where you think a train may not be coming, a train could be coming at any time," said Rick Harris, director of corporate communications for Norfolk Southern.
Ricky Gibbs was the engineer on Monday's train. He said anytime he sees a car or a person trying to cross the track, his heart rate automatically goes up.
"It's all like it's in slow motion. It's almost like you're powerless to do anything about it but you see it happenin' and there's nothin' you can do to stop it," Gibbs explained.
But the public can help prevent these situations by being more cautious when crossing a railroad in a vehicle and otherwise staying away from the tracks all together.