Three Misconceptions Railroaders Want To Debunk

Two teens look out towards a railroad track.

We have been working with Union Pacific Railroad to keep kids safe around trains and railroad tracks. Check out this blog from Union Pacific about three misconceptions railroaders want to clear up.

Have you ever talked to your children about how to stay safe around railroad tracks?

If the answer is no, you’re not alone. With fewer than 40% of parents seeing railroad safety as even somewhat of a problem, as found by Safe Kids Worldwide, the chances are slim you’ve had that conversation. But the problem is top of mind for railroaders. Knowing that a child dies every five days as a result of being struck by a train is more than a statistic to a trainman. It’s a heart wrenching fact that deserves priority attention.

Locomotive engineers and conductors witness firsthand the devastating impact of rail-related tragedies and emphasize education as a key way to improve the safety and wellbeing of all.

Understanding the following misconceptions about railroad-related behavior is the first step.

  1. Just because our older relatives may have walked along the rails when they were growing up doesn’t make it safe – it is trespassing. As we get older, we become wiser and learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. We wouldn’t allow our children to get in a vehicle without buckling up or allow them to walk along the freeway, so why would we let them roam on or near train tracks?
  2. As fun as it is to imagine that art imitates life, movies and TV shows are famous for inaccurately portraying life scenarios. In the same sense that it’s dangerous for Allie and Noah to lay in the street in The Notebook, it’s dangerous for Brian and Dom to rebelliously speed up when a train is crossing in the The Fast and the Furious.
  3. Even though the train crew is often not hurt physically, they are impacted on an emotional level. Many locomotive engineers and conductors face serious psychological trauma following critical incidents and oftentimes participate in peer support groups during the healing process. It is not uncommon for railroaders to relive the tragedies they witnessed in their heads. “You remember every detail, from what you were wearing to what the weather was like,” said Buck Russel, who spent 13 years as a locomotive engineer, before transitioning to the Public Safety team. “It’s like a vivid nightmare that never fades.”

Several railroaders live with the idea that the next rail-related incident is not a matter of if, but when. Having conversations with our loved ones and retraining our brains to see trespassing as dangerous are the first steps in addressing this prevalent issue. Keep kids on track by telling them to get off the tracks.