Wisconsin nonprofit begins Rail Safety Week urging driver safety near railroads

TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) — A Wisconsin nonprofit is partnering with local and international law enforcement to put more attention on driver safety near railroads.

Monday marked the official start of Rail Safety Week, and Wisconsin Operation Lifesaver, state emergency responders and even Canadian officials are uniting to urge drivers to be careful at railroad crossings.

Gary Koerner, Wisconsin’s Operation Lifesaver coordinator, said last year in Wisconsin there were more than 40 crashes involving a train and a car.

He said everyone — from young to veteran drivers — is at risk if they’re not paying attention.

“You’re 20 times more likely to die in a crash between a train and a car than you are between two cars,” he said.

As part of a kickoff event at Tomah’s Amtrak station, Operation Lifesaver also showed the aftermath of a vehicle hit by a train to illustrate the extent of the damage that can be done to both car and driver.

The organization also urged people against trespassing on railroad property. Koerner said in Wisconsin 15 trespassers were hit by a train, 11 of whom died.

They said the best way drivers can protect themselves is to slow down, put distractions away, and to stop when they see flashing lights.