Cooper County has many rail crossings within its borders and unfortunately, in the past, accidents have occurred on those crossings. The Missouri Department of Transportation urges motorist and individuals to think train when crossing any tracks.

Last year, a train hit a vehicle on the tracks behind the Isle of Capri Casino – sending the occupant of the vehicle to the hospital via Staff for Life Helicopter. It is these accidents and ones like it that MoDOT wishes to avoid. With close proximity to tracks either in back yards or fields, safety is key.

“Federal government statistics show that about every three hours in the U.S., a vehicle or person is hit by a train. To raise awareness of the need for caution near tracks and trains, the firstU.S. Rail Safety Week will take place this year from September 24-30,” MoDOT stated in release. "Missouri law enforcement agencies and railroad special agents will be out monitoring railroad crossings during Missouri Rail Safety Week.  We are hoping to change the public's mindset regarding rail safety.  Rail Safety Week is a great opportunity to get our message out there!"

According to the Union Pacific Railroad engineers have responsibility to ring the bell, blow the whistle one-quarter mile from all public crossings, or as whistle signs indicate, keep the headlight on bright, proceed at rates consistent with timetable speed or the safety of the train and observe all bulletins and rules.

"While vehicle-train collisions in the U.S. have dropped by 83 percent in the last four decades, there are still more than 2,000 vehicle-train collisions annually across the U.S., and last year saw more than 900 injuries and fatalities to people walking, playing or taking photos on train tracks. These incidents are devastating to families, communities and train crew members – and they are often preventable,” according to MoDOT.

MoDOT also stated that in 2016, Missouri experienced seven fatalities and 19 injuries in 36 rail crossing incidents.

“This was a slight reduction in incidents, but a 40 percent increase in fatalities from 2015. Another five people were killed and eight were injured in 14 trespass incidents; a 39 percent decrease in incidents and a 67 percent decrease in fatalities from 2015,” according to MoDOT.

           "MoDOT works with the railroads to upgrade public crossings with lights and gates, LED lights and more reflective signing.  With our limited funding, we do 25 to 30 signal upgrades per year," said Missouri Department of Transportation Railroad Administrator Eric Curtit. "We also continue to work with local communities and railroads to improve safety by reducing the number of railroad crossings because a closed crossing is the safest crossing."

           Remember, making the right decisions near railroad tracks can truly be the difference between life and death, today – and every day. Keep yourself, family and friends safe by following Operation Lifesaver’s top five rail safety tips:

1.      Look and listen for a train as you approach all railroad crossings - obey all signs, warning lights and gates.

2.      Trains are quieter and faster than you think - never try to beat a train.

3.      Because of their size and weight, it can take a mile or more to stop a train.

4.      Always expect a train on any track and avoid distractions when you approach a crossing.

5.      Railroad property is private property. Walking on the tracks not at a designated crossing is illegal and dangerous.

           Missouri Operation Lifesaver is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade intersections and on railroad rights of way through public education, engineering and enforcement.  To learn more about Missouri Operation Lifesaver, please visitwww.oli.org.