Morgan Frisch/Recorder staff
Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith and Heather Harder, a deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, talk to a driver Tuesday during Operation Clear Track at the Broadway grade crossing in Fonda.
By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
FONDA — Travelers who passed over the Broadway railroad crossing Tuesday were likely stopped by officials taking part in Operation Clear Track.
The event was one of many taking place during the first national Rail Safety Week sponsored by Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OIL).
OIL, and its safety partners, such as Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific Railway and others across the United States, could be found handing out flyers and passing along information when the surge of Operation Clear Track presentations began at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
At that time, Executive Director for Operation Lifesaver Inc. Evan S. Eisenhandler stood near the train track crossing on Broadway in Fonda.
“These same activities are going on across the nation,” he said.
Eisenhandler, as well as representatives from CSX, the New York State Police, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith, talked to drivers as they crossed the tracks in Fonda.
“It’s meant to focus attention on safe driving at the railroad crossing,” Eisenhandler said of Rail Safety Week.
In the last 10 years throughout the United States, Eisenhandler said there have been almost 29,000 grade crossing collisions in which about 3,000 people have been killed and about 9,500 have been injured. A grade crossing refers to the intersection of a railroad and road at the same level.
“This effort focuses on reducing those numbers and making it safer for the general public through education,” Eisenhandler said.
He said people should always remember to pay attention to the signals and never stop on the crossing. If a person’s vehicle happens to break down on the crossing, he said, they should get everyone out of the vehicle, get them to a safe location and call the railroad so they can stop oncoming trains.
Eisenhandler noted the importance of the blue Emergency Notification Signs that provide numbers for the public to use in case something happens at a crossing or if there is a crossing sign malfunction.
“To get the railroad’s attention, this is the best possible way,” he said. “This goes right directly into their trouble desk. They will know exactly where you are and physically locate you.”
Other information he shared Tuesday was how the public should never drive or walk around lowered grade crossing gates. People should also slow down and stop prior to the tracks when lights begin to flash. He said no one can determine when a train could be coming.
“Anytime is train time,” he said.“Whatever way we get the message to folks about grade crossing safety is fine.”
Robert Rohauer, CSX Regional Manager, was also passing out safety information Tuesday.
“We always want to promote good behavior on and around railroad tracks and equipment,” he said. “This is just part of one of many outreach activities we have planned throughout the state and actually across the entire 23 state network. We want to heighten the awareness of making good decisions on and around the railroad tracks.”
He said people should always use caution when approaching a crossing. If a gate is still lowered after a train passes, he said to never be in a hurry and consider going around it because another train could be coming.
Rohauer said with trains, it’s all about perception. He said people may see a train coming and think it’s going slower than it is because of depth perception.
“It’s hard to judge how fast a train is actually coming down the track when you are so close to it,” he said. “People think they have enough time, that they can get across, but when the gates go down and the lights go on, they should wait for the train to pass.”
Smith said Broadway is the busiest crossings in the county. He said the Montgomery County Emergency Management Department is a partner of CSX and tries to do everything it can to assist CSX in keeping crossings safe.
“We have had incidents in the past in this county at our crossings,” Smith said. “So anytime you have people bringing safety issues to light is good for all of us.”
Smith said there have been people who have driven around the gates or not paid attention to the warning lights.
“That’s why this is important,” he said. “The public has to understand and realize that all of these lights and all of these warning signals are for their safety. That train that is coming through can’t stop.”