Saturday, May 10, is National Train Day, a day set aside to recognize the advantages of rail travel and transport around the country. One of these advantages - and a major focus of National Train Day - is safety. With spring finally here and summer on its heels, it is critical to remember the importance of safe behavior around railroad tracks and to discuss it with our children.
Unfortunately, since 2011, there have been 46 deaths and injuries in South Carolina as a result of trespassing on railroad tracks. That's 46 too many. And each trespassing tragedy can be prevented if each of us will act safely around rail tracks.
Remember: The only safe and legal place to cross the tracks is where there is a designated crossing.
Beyond the potential for a fine or ticket, there is also a very real risk of serious injury and possible death any time you attempt to beat a train or walk anywhere within the railroad right of way. The average freight train traveling at 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop, the length of 18 football fields. If the locomotive engineer can see you, it's too late to stop the train.
Train tracks are private property and are never for recreational activity. Never take a shortcut through the train yard, climb through or under a train that has been sitting there for a while, or drive around the crossing arms that are down. Across the United States, someone died every single day in 2013 as a result of trespassing on railroad tracks. It's just not worth it.
I proudly support Operation Lifesaver's national See Tracks? Think Train! Campaign. In addition to bringing awareness to rail safety, it's providing residents with shareable content to reach the people most likely to ignore safety warnings.
Operation Lifesaver is working hand-in-hand on this important campaign with American railroads because nothing is more important to railroads than safety; America's freight railroads have been investing more than ever on infrastructure and equipment, and nearly all of these investments enhance safety in one way or another.
Railroads are constantly incorporating new technologies to improve rail safety - including sophisticated detectors along tracks that identify defects on passing rail cars; ground-penetrating radar that identifies problems below ground, and specialized rail cars that identify defects in tracks.
Please help me support the national See Tracks? Think Train! Campaign. Be a rail- safety role model. Always cross at designated crossings; never allow distractions to take your attention away around train tracks; and keep in mind that alcohol and train tracks are a deadly mix. Log on to SeeTracksThink.org for more information, and then educate your friends and family.
Let's keep Charleston a beautiful and safe place to live and visit. Whenever you see tracks, always think train.
Joseph P. Riley Jr.
Mayor, City of Charleston