Officers took to multiple Plant City railroad crossings this week to remind citizens of the dangers presented by railroad tracks and provide information on how to make safe decisions around them.
Plant City Police Department took to the city’s streets on Tuesday in conjunction with Amtrak Police and Operation Livesaver Inc. for “Operation Clear Track,” part of the largest rail safety law enforcement initiative during the national Rail Safety Week.
Officers made their way to two different locations in Plant City where the public traffic meets a railroad crossing to hand out safety information cards that remind citizens of the dangers that these junctions can present. And while the campaign is multi-national, perhaps there is no place more fitting to remind drivers of these dangers than Plant City, a town named after railroad developer Henry B. Plant and so influenced by the history of America’s railroad system that a train is emblazoned upon their city’s seal.
But the issue is not just deaths near crossings, but traffic incidents that occur due to negligence or nonchalance regarding the tracks.
“Our main issue with trains is that the arms come down before the light changes because they want to clear traffic off of the track,” officer Kyle Russell said. “And then as they arms are coming down, semi trucks will see that the light turns green and they don’t see the arms because they’re right underneath it, then they’re going through, the arm comes down between the cab and the trailer and it breaks the arm.”
Statistics show that a person or vehicle is struck by a train every 30 seconds and annually more than 2,100 individuals are injured or killed in crossing and trespassing incidents. in North America. Operation Clear Track is an effort across the nation to raise awareness of the need for caution and to save lives by empowering the public to make safe decisions near railroad tracks and trains during Rail Safety Week.
According to RailfanLocations, Plant City can expect between 15 and 20 trains to come across their N. Palmer St. location each day. This frequency has not only impacted the city’s construction, but even influences how law enforcement officers have to handle responding to calls in the case of moving trains blocking certain roadways while en route.
“There is a complacency about rail safety,” sergeant Alfred Van Duyne said. “As people come across the intersections and come up on crossings, unless you see lights flashing and arms coming down, nobody looks down the tracks… if traffic is slow and you’re creeping up on the intersection, you always need to look and check. People just need to always be cognizant of that. The other thing is not understanding that if you stop on a railroad track and a train is coming, it takes a train hundreds of feet, if not longer, to stop.”
Rail Safety Week will take place through Sept. 26. For more information, visit www.oli.com.