Keeping Kids Safe: The importance of talking to your children about railroad safety

Keeping Kids Safe

Safe Kids Worldwide Director of Research Morag Mackay sheds a light on an under-reported issue during National Rail Safety Week

(WYTV) – An organization focused on protecting children shared some sobering statistics about the dangers of crosswalks.

Safe Kids Worldwide reports that 1 child dies every 5 days in a train collision. Despite this, the group found that a majority of parents don’t consider children being hit by trains a problem.

The group’s director of research, Morag Mackay, sheds more light on this under-reported problem during National Rail Safety Week. She Facetimed with 33 WYTV News Anchor Lindsey Watson.

Railroads: An Often-Overlooked Danger to Children

Morag Mackay: “For every fatality, there are three non-fatal incidents. The fact that that ratio was so low, 1 to 3, just tells you that these injuries, when they occur, are usually pretty traumatic. If you think about the size of a train and the power behind it, that’s not really a surprise. When we looked a little bit further into those injuries, we saw that the teenagers are at greatest risk. So, 15- to 19-year-olds are at nearly four times the risk of 10- to 14-year-olds and nearly six times the risk of 5- to 9-year-olds.”

Lindsey Watson: “Two main circumstances really seem to stand out in this report that resulted in tragedy even though all of these are preventable — crossing collisions and trespassing collisions.”

Morag Mackay: “Railroads and their tracks are private property and it’s actually illegal and dangerous to be walking on the tracks, and there’s a couple of reasons again why that is so dangerous. Today’s locomotives move basically silent and if you’ve ever been standing when a train passes you, you feel the wind move, you hear that noise. A train coming towards you is displacing the air, sort of going along each side, so it’s very quiet and if you have headphones or earbuds in, you may not even hear that train approach. While they sometimes toot their horn, they’re probably not going to do that until they see you on the track and again, they’ll probably be very close to you by the time they see you. So that is a real issue, with trespass. Another one for both of the types of injury is a train is much wider than the track or the rail itself and sometimes people don’t realize that. So they might pull their car up and not realize that a train can hang over like 3 feet on either side or they might be standing near the track but not realize that they’re gonna get clipped by the train as it goes by.”

Lindsey Watson: “And you guys did offer safety tips to help prevent an injury because like we said before, basically all of these incidents were nearly 100% preventable.”

Morag Mackay: “In addition to talking with your kids, because we found that about half of parents indicated that they ever had a chat with their kids about this issue of railroad safety. We really think it’s an easy one — you see a train, stop at a railroad track. Have that quick conversation. Talk about the importance of only crossing the railroad at a designated crossing — that’s one usually with a sign, some kind of barrier and flashing lights, but not always.”

Kids and Railroad Safety

Other tips Safe Kids Worldwide has for parents to share with their kids include the rule of “Heads up, devices down” when you cross the tracks. That means to put away your mobile device and your headphones before you make a move.

Another tip is to never, under any circumstance, walk along train tracks.

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