Safety in the fields, safety crossing tracks

OMAHA, Neb.—Each year prior to and during harvest, all agriculture professionals are reminded to be aware and practice safe procedures when bringing in their crops. Many fields are adjacent to Union Pacific Railroad tracks, and some fields have private railroad crossings going from field to field. Union Pacific urges producers to safely cross the tracks while they are working Illinois fields during this year’s harvest.

Harvesting equipment can be very loud, so we want to remind people to approach railroad crossings with extreme caution. Most importantly, take the time to look both directions to be sure a train is not near. It can take a train a mile or more to stop. By the time a locomotive engineer sees you on the tracks, it’s too late,

said John Simpson, Union Pacific manager of public safety for Illinois.

Drivers operating equipment near or over railroad crossings should remember seven steps for safety:

1. Approach crossings with care. Slow down when you see an Advanced Warning Sign.

2. Prepare to stop. Turn off fans and radio, roll down windows. Look and listen for a train.

3. Stop at least 15 feet from the nearest rail, but not more than 50 feet, if you see a train.

4. If it won’t fit, don’t commit. Trains extend beyond the width of the rails at least 3 feet on each side. If your vehicle has a trailer, remember the additional length.

5. Double check, back left and right. Before you move, look in both directions.

6. Cross tracks with care. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, use a gear that will not require shifting until you reach the opposite side.

7. Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.

If a vehicle stalls or hangs up on the tracks, it is important for the driver and all passengers to get out immediately and move away from the tracks in the direction of the oncoming train at a 45-degree angle. Once safely away from the tracks, find the railroad’s emergency phone number and the DOT identification number posted near the crossing, and call local law enforcement or 911.

Last year, 286 people died and 935 were injured as a result of a train’s collision throughout  the United States. In Illinois, there were 149 collisions resulting in 68 injuries and 26 fatalities during 2008.

In an effort to educate the public about grade crossing and pedestrian safety, Union Pacific works closely with Operation Lifesaver, a national, nonprofit education and awareness program dedicated to ending tragic collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad tracks. To accomplish its mission, Operation Lifesaver promotes education, enforcement and engineering. More information about Operation Lifesaver can be found at

In 1972, when Operation Lifesaver began, there were approximately 12,000 collisions between trains and motor vehicles annually. By 2008, the most recent year for which preliminary statistics are available, the number of train/motor vehicle collisions had been reduced by about 80  percent to 2,391.

Do not become a statistic; use caution sense when approaching and crossing railroad tracks this harvest season.

About Union Pacific

Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the Western two-thirds of the country. Union Pacific serves many of the fastest-growing U.S. population centers and provides a fuel-efficient, environmentally-responsible and safe mode of freight transportation. Union Pacific connects with Canada’s rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America’s premier rail franchise.

from the Aug 12-18, 2009 issue

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