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Safety encouraged around rail crossings

While the possibility of a no blow zone for the city isexciting, motorist education about the dangers around trainintersections must remain a priority, a spokesman for OperationLifesaver said Wednesday.

David Simmons, Wal-Mart Transportation safety manager who speaksto various groups about Operation Lifesaver, updated the BrookhavenKiwanis Club Wednesday on train-related dangers and the nationalsafety program’s efforts to prevent collisions and fatalities arerail crossings. He also took the opportunity to encourage recentconsideration of the city becoming a no blow, or no horn, zone.

“This opportunity we have in Brookhaven is exciting to me,”Simmons said.

Simmons, who lives near the railroad tracks, said overnightvisitors are able to tell him exactly how many trains passedthrough during the previous night. He cautioned, though, that thejourney to a no blow zone will be an involved and lengthyprocess.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort,” Simmons said.

Simmons said implementing a no blow zone is a multi-year processand partnership with the federal government. He said it is also anexpensive endeavor for cities as they are responsible for upgradesat crossings.

Clinton became a no horn zone last month, Simmons said. So far,he said, there have been no collisions.

Toward the no blow zone effort, education is an important aspectof safety around rail crossings.

“One thing we can do is public education that will impress the(Federal Railroad Administration) and the railroads,” Simmonssaid.

Simmons discussed the 3 Es of Operation Lifesaver – Education,Engineering and Enforcement – as well as collision statistics andaspects of train operations.

Mississippi last year ranked 12th in nation with eighttrain-collision fatalities. That average was one every 45 days.

Simmons reported some success in early 2010, as there was onlyabout one fatality a month so far. Collisions are occurring at arate of about one every seven and a half days.

According to FRA statistics, there are 40 rail crossings inLincoln County. Simmons said an average 1.45 trains a day comethrough the city.

Around rail crossings, Simmons cautioned that any time can betrain time as they follow no schedule. Therefore, motorists need tobe observant as they approach crossings.

Also, Simmons noted that trains are unable to stop quickly. Fora train traveling at 55 miles per hour, the stopping distance isabout one mile.

Regarding the potential for damage in a collision at a railcrossing, Simmons said the size differential of a soda can comparedto a car is the same as that of car to a train. He held up a sodacan he flattened with his car to illustrate how much damage can bedone if a train hits an automobile.

Simmons said Operation Lifesaver has various presentations thattarget specific groups. He touted a young drivers program that hasreached around 400 first-time local drivers.

“We’ve been able to impact every new driver in Lincoln Countythis year,” Simmons said.