You are 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle. So, a national campaign to keep us all safe near railroad tracks has just begun.
The goal of the "See Tracks, Think Train" campaign is to raise awareness about risky pedestrian and driver behavior around railroad tracks. Cleveland Clinic Emergency Room physician Dr. Seth Podolsky says he has seen too many people take this unnecessary risk.
"If there is a track, expect a train. It's a dangerous place to be. Give it some clearance on both sides- a safety zone and remember, the force of a train hitting a car is like a car hitting a soda can," Podolsky warned.
Researchers with the Federal Railroad Administration say the number of people hurt or killed at railroad grade crossings went up 1.5 percent last year to nearly 1,200. They say another 900 people were killed or injured walking on or near railroad tracks in 2013. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of a person's home and 50 percent of all crashes happen within 5 miles of the victim's home.
Podolsky says that's why you should never take your safety for granted when you're approaching a set of tracks.
"Absolutely be vigilant when you see train tracks. If you see lights, but not a gate, it's the same as if you see a gate, but not lights because if you get hit by a train you're probably not going to walk away from it," said Podolsky.
Safety experts also remind us that trains always have the right-of-way and that a train needs about a mile and a half to come to a complete stop.