Mississippi law enforcement officers are taking part in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about railroad safety. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Law enforcement along Mississippi's Gulfcoast is out today at checkpoints near railroad crossings to educate drivers about potential dangers. It's part of National Rail Safety Week. Lt. Joshua Bromen is with the Gulfport Police Department. He says drivers who ignore the warning lights or go around the crossing gate don't realize they can get stuck on the tracks.
"The best analogy I can give you for a train versus a car is your car versus a 12 ounce Coke can and that's the amount of energy difference a a train is simply not going to be able to stop," said Bromen.
In 2017, a bus carrying elderly passengers on their way to a casino got stuck on railroad tracks in Biloxi and was hit by a freight train. Four people were killed. Kimbler Sloan with the non-profit Mississippi Operation Lifesaver educates people about railroad safety. Last year, she says 3 people were killed and 15 injured in train-related crashes statewide. She says it takes one mile for a train traveling 55 to 60 miles per hour to stop and many are going faster than that. Sloan says people are also killed walking near the tracks.
"For trespassers which would be a pedestrian or someone whose was walking along railroad property that's not at the actual crossing with the cross-buck during 2018 we had 8 fatalities," said Sloan.
Sloan says get out of the vehicle if it gets stuck. There are blue and white emergency signs at crossings with a phone number to call a dispatcher. She says they can alert the train. Sloan adds a growing problem is people posing for pictures on railroad tracks. Lt. Joshua Bromen says they'll be riding the rails today issuing tickets to violators.