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Operation Lifesavers says people underestimate the risks of driving over railroad crossings, like this one on Virginia Avenue in Orlando.WASHINGTON – With the high speed rail project likely dead and Central Florida now turning its attention to the SunRail commuter rail line, a non-profit agency is trying to raise public awareness of a very different issue when it comes to trains. The number of vehicle-train and pedestrian collisions, deaths and injuries increased in 2010, according to preliminary statistics by the Federal Railroad Administration. States with the highest number of crossing collisions last year were Texas, Illinois, California, Indiana and Louisiana, while states with the most pedestrian-train casualties in 2010 were California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York. Edwards said there’s good reason for her agency to target Florida, with its warm weather and steady tourism traffic. In the past few years, Florida lawmakers have been debating two proposed rail projects for the central part of the state.
The other project is SunRail, a 61-mile commuter train that would run from Volusia County to downtown Orlando, and then to Poinciana. Edwards said her agency is not in favor of, or opposed to, trains as a means of transporting passengers or commercial products.

Operation Lifesaver – which Edwards said has been around since 1972 — is an educational agency whose mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. At least 451 pedestrians were killed and 382 injured while trespassing on train tracks last year, compared to 417 deaths and 343 injuries in 2009. Florida is also a concern for Operation Lifesaver, Edward said, because so many tourists hit the roads in the Sunshine State, and they may not even be familiar with where the train tracks are – or even paying attention.
That’s why Operation Lifesaver relies on getting the word out any way in can, including through the local media, that people should never let their guard down when approaching a train track – even if they’ve never had an incident there in the past. When checked, Shutterstock's safe search screens restricted content and excludes it from your search results. A national network of certified volunteers provides free presentations on rail safety across the country.
People in certain neighborhoods drive over train tracks so often that they come to expect a train will never pass by at the same time they’re driving through.

There have been public service announcements urging motorists not to drink to drive or text and drive, and to wear their seatbelts. Scott has said his office is still reviewing the state’s funding commitment to this project.
Department of Transportation show that vehicle miles traveled in 2010 reached the third-highest on record, meaning more people were traveling on roadways last year. But Operation Lifesaver lacks the funding to do a similar national, state or regional campaign.

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