'Officer on a Train' effort focuses on car/train safety
City, county and state law enforcement officers from Idaho and Washington launched a coordinated enforcement effort this week to raise awareness of railroad crossing safely through an "Officer on a Train" program.
"The purpose of this enforcement effort is to increase public awareness of the potential dangers that exist at highway and railroad intersections, and eliminate driver actions that can have tragic consequences, by enforcing traffic laws pertaining to these intersections," explained Sgt. Jonelle Greear, of the Idaho State Police.
The enforcement program is one of three parts of the Operation Lifesaver effort, which include engineering and education, designed to eliminate car train collisions.
During the Officer on a Train enforcement runs, one officer was placed on the lead locomotive of a train as a spotter. This officer observes traffic approaching the highway/railroad intersections as the train proceeded down the tracks. Other officers pace the train or are parked at specific intersections. When a motorist is observed violating the laws relating to highway/rail intersections, the officer on the train radios an officer in one of the patrol cars, who in turn stops the offender and issues a citation.
In 2007, Idaho experienced 19 car/train collisions, resulting in two fatalities and seven personal injuries. Another five pedestrians who were trespassing on railroad property also were hit by trains. Through March 15 of this year, there have been five car/train collisions in Idaho.
In Washington during 2007, there were 47 car/train collisions resulting in seven fatalities and 13 injured. Another 10 pedestrians were killed and 17 injured while trespassing on railroad property.
The Officer on a Train operation is conducted using freight trains, special passenger trains and "helper" locomotives, which usually consist of two engines. Since 1990, the Officer on a Train program has expanded to involve city, county and state law enforcement agencies and all of the railroads. This on-going program has been instrumental in the reduction of car/train collisions.