The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are hoping that a $5.6 million public safety awareness campaign will make Americans take railroad crossing safety more seriously.

The numbers suggest that that is not currently the case. Every four hours in America, a person or vehicle is struck by a train at a rail crossing.  Over the past five years, 798 people have died while trying to drive across railroad tracks. In 2018 alone, 270 people were killed at railroad crossings.  Of those, 99 people died after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms – a 10-year high.

The federal campaign – Stop. Trains Can’t. – is an effort to raise public awareness and reduce fatalities at highway-railway crossings. It reminds drivers about the potential risks of an approaching train when crossing railroad tracks, especially when active warning devices such as flashing lights or gate arms are descending or lowered.

Given their size and weight, neither freight nor passenger trains can stop easily to avoid cars or other vehicles on the tracks.  Trains cannot swerve out of the way, and a freight train traveling 55 mph can take more than a mile to stop, even when emergency brakes are applied.

“Rail safety isn’t just about the safe movement of passenger and freight trains; it’s also about helping the American public be safe near railroad tracks,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. 

“Too many lives are lost every year when drivers disregard safety warnings at rail crossings,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King. “Trying to save a few minutes can cost you your life.”

The campaign’s targeted advertising will run through Sunday, May 12.  It includes video spots that will run on digital and social platforms, radio advertising, and social media messaging, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  The new Stop. Trains Can’t. campaign video can be viewed here.

While national in scope, ads will be targeted to high-incident communities in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

Watch related videos of Sec. Chao, FRA Administrator Batory, and NHTSA Deputy Administrator King