Right on track

    OTTAWA, April 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Regardless of how you do the math,
ignoring the signals and disregarding safety at a railway crossing is a deadly
    For example:
    1. The average locomotive weighs 110 tonnes and the average car weighs
       only two.
    2. It takes a train travelling at 100 kilometres per hour the length of
       14 football fields to come to a complete stop.

    This adds up to the fact that you are 40 times more likely to die in a
train collision than in a collision with another car!
    Operation Lifesaver is a national public education program dedicated to
reducing loss of life and injuries on the tracks. It reports that every year,
Canadians die needlessly in rail crossing and trespassing accidents. In 2004
alone, 25 people lost their lives and 50 were seriously injured in collisions
with trains.
    Maybe our familiarity with trains has translated into a false sense of
security. Operation Lifesaver also reports that most crashes occur within 40
kilometres of the motorist's home. Researchers at the University of Calgary's
Department of Psychology found that many drivers involved in collisions with
trains were familiar with the crossings and had used them regularly. This
familiarity may encourage drivers to take greater risks such as driving around
active gates or trying to beat the train.
    Familiarity, however, is only part of the problem. For example, why do 50
 per cent of vehicle/train collisions occur at crossings with active warning
devices such as gates, lights, and bells?
    Gary Drouin from Transport Canada says people often underestimate the
speed of a train: "Because of the angle of approach and size of the train, it
appears that the train's speed is slower than it really is. When the bells
start ringing the train will be at the crossing in approximately 22 seconds.
And the impact of a train/car collision is the equivalent of a car driving
over a pop can."
    Although Direction 2006 (a 10-year program) came to an end on
December 31, 2006, Transport Canada is continuing its' work to ensure public
safety in our communities, in partnership with government, railway companies,
public safety organizations, police, unions and community groups who aim to
reduce grade crossing collisions.
    Some people still believe it is easy to tell which set of tracks a train
is on and which direction it is travelling when, in reality, a train can
appear at any time. This is why listening for warning bells and whistles is so
important. According to Mr. Drouin, "All crossings are safe if you obey the
warning signs. It is when you don't respect them that tragedy occurs."
    Respecting the warning signs begins with turning off distractions like
radios, fans and heaters. Asking children to be quiet until the crossing is
safely passed and opening the window to help you hear are also suggested.
Never drive under a gate as it is closing, or around a closed gate. If your
car stalls on the crossing and a train is approaching, or the warning devices
start, get your passengers and yourself out of the car quickly and run down
the road - away from the crossing. Call 9-1-1 and the 800 number posted on the
crossing as soon as possible. Do not try to start your vehicle or push it off
the tracks.
    Operation Lifesaver staff and volunteers have designed a number of
age-specific presentations to help people of all ages become aware of the
dangers around railway tracks. Approximately 2,000 presentations are delivered
annually across Canada by over 500 certified volunteer presenters - to
schools, youth clubs, driver associations and community groups.
    Preventing tragedy begins with learning how to stay safe. You can read
more about rail safety by visiting Transport Canada's Rail Safety website at
http://www.tc.gc.ca/railway/en/menu.htm, the Direction 2006 site at
http://www.direction2006.com/ or the Operation Lifesaver website at

For further information:

For further information: Fiona Macleod, Communications, Transport
Canada, Ottawa, (613) 993-0055

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