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Trying to beat moving train can be deadly

OPERATION LIFESAVER:

May 25, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

During the narrow window of rush hour Thursday morning, a two-car train makes a westbound run through the Seeley curve, a railroad track that runs semi-parallel to Adams Avenue in El Centro.

Anxious drivers and rushing schoolchildren scurry across various railroad intersections in hopes of beating tardiness to their respective destinations.

A few daring individuals, mostly schoolchildren, make dangerous runs across the tracks in spite of the massive train approaching mere feet away.

Inside the train Operation Lifesaver coordinator Douglas Farler observes the hurried railroad crossings of the drivers and children.

On this morning, Farler is accompanied by officers from the El Centro Police Department, media and other Union Pacific Railroad staff, everyone packed into a small compartment at the front of the lead train car.

As the train travels farther west along the Seeley Curve, the group spots more children making dashes across the railroad, "playing chicken" with the train and also placing items across the railroad tracks.

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A police officer stops a trio of boys and lectures them on the safety precautions they need to take.

The boys are let off after their lecture, but Farler said some children don't make it across the tracks.

Farler said some kids are encouraged by their parents to cross between stopped train cars at an intersection, lest the children be late to school.

"It's an everyday ordeal," Farler said of the dangerous crossings commuters and residents make each day.

Farler said most motorists and pedestrians fail to properly estimate the size and capabilities of trains.

"Most people don't know that it takes a train almost a mile to stop," said Farler.

An issue, Farler stressed, was motorists and pedestrians should always stop at railroad crossings and wait for trains to pass before crossing.

Additionally, railroad crossers should always follow all warning signs and devices near railroad tracks.

According to Operation Lifesaver's Website, more than 5,000 people have been killed since 1990 due to failure of yielding the right-of-way to trains.

Following the morning train ride, Farler spent the afternoon giving presentations on railroad crossing safety to students at Kennedy Middle School in El Centro.

Operation Lifesaver was created in 1972 with goals to prevent and reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities and increase safe crossings across the nation's 300,000 public and private highway-rail grade crossings.

In addition to its public safety campaign, the organization sponsors engineering studies to find ways of reducing railroad dangers.

For more information and safety guidelines, visit the organization's Website at www.oli.org or call (800) 537-6224.

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

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