Traveling from New Haven to Springfield has never been easier now that CTrail Hartford Line trains as of Nov. 2018 increased train flow from 12 to 34 trips daily. But increased schedules have resulted in increased risks to people and vehicles along the tracks, a fact noted on Feb. 5 to 64 Y’s Men of Meriden by Kevin Burns, CT State Coordinator for Operation Lifesaver (OL).
OL is an international non-profit public education program, supported in our state by the CT Dept. of Transportation, which provides certified volunteer speakers who give free rail safety presentations to individuals and organizations regarding techniques to prevent collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of way. OL accomplishes its mission though education, engineering (e.g. improved signage) and enforcement (e.g. using local police departments to enforce school bus stoppings at all crossings.)
During 2018, OL volunteers and staff made 8722 presentations on rail safety, including at Meriden’s Daffodil Festival and National Night Out in Hubbard Park. Other presentations were delivered to school bus drivers, police departments, driving schools and senior centers. All of Meriden and Wallingford K-5 students will have received a presentation by this April.
Burns then projected a video with graphic footage of train/vehicle collisions. And he provided several remarkable facts: the number one cause of rail-related accidents is people walking on the tracks; more than 50,000 passengers now ride the New Haven/Springfield line monthly; a 75-car freight train traveling 55 mph will take more than a mile to stop; and train travel is more than 100 times safer than automobile travel.
But the most important take-aways from this presentation were three key safely rules:
1. If your car becomes stuck between railroad gates in the down position so you are trapped on the tracks, force your way through the gate; it is made to break away, causing only scratches on your vehicle.
2. If your car stalls between railroad gates so you cannot force your way out, immediately leave the vehicle and run away at a 45 degree angle, going away from the tracks on the oncoming-train side.
3. If you see an emergency situation developing, call the ENS (Emergency Notification System) number posted on a sign at each crossing (white letters on a blue background) which promptly connects you to a central office in Boston and tell the dispatcher to stop the oncoming train.
Retired or semi-retired men from Meriden or surrounding communities, interested in attending a Y’s Men of Meriden meeting, are invited to call 203-238-7784 or visit the www.ysmenofmeriden.com website.