BATON ROUGE, LA – An improving economy may have contributed to an increase in vehicle-train and pedestrian collisions, deaths and injuries in 2010, according to Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI, www.oli.org), the national nonprofit rail safety education organization, citing preliminary 2010 Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics.

National FRA statistics indicate that there were 2,004 vehicle-train collisions in the U.S. in 2010, up 4.2 percent from the 1,924 incidents in 2009.  Those 2010 collisions resulted in 260 deaths and 810 injuries, with crossing deaths up 5.3 percent and crossing injuries up 9.8 percent from the 247 deaths and 738 injuries in 2009.  States with the most crossing collisions in 2010 were Texas, Illinois, California, Indiana and Louisiana.

Louisiana now ranks fifth nationally in vehicle-train collisions, fourth in vehicle-train fatalities, and third in vehicle-train injuries.  In Louisiana, crossing collisions rose from 84 in 2009 to 106 in 2010; fatalities rose from 11 in 2009 to 13 in 2010; and injuries rose from 36 in 2009 to 65 in 2010.

“The statistics show that as America pulls out of the recession and people are driving more, we need to redouble our efforts to educate the public about taking unnecessary risks at highway-rail crossings, because any incident is one too many,” said OLI President Helen Sramek.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures also show that vehicle miles traveled in 2010 (2,999,634 according to the Federal Highway Administration) were the third-highest ever, Sramek noted.  “With more people traveling on our roadways, there’s a greater chance for an incident to occur,” Sramek said.

“The FRA data for Louisiana from 2007-2010 indicates that 41.6 percent of vehicle-train collisions involved automobiles, with truck-trailers noted at 19.5 percent, and pick-up trucks at 18.1 percent,” said Pat Edwards, state coordinator of Louisiana Operation Lifesaver.  The top five parishes in Louisiana for vehicle-train incidents during this time period, comprising 27.5 percent, are East Baton Rouge, Caddo, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson, and Ouachita Parishes.

Nationwide, an additional 451 pedestrians were killed and 382 injured while trespassing on train tracks last year, versus 417 deaths and 343 injuries in 2009.  Total trespasser deaths rose 8.2 percent and trespasser injuries rose 11.4 percent in 2010.  States with the most pedestrian-train casualties (deaths and injuries combined) in 2010 were California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York.

Louisiana now ranks 14th nationally in trespasser casualties (fatalities and injuries combined), up from a rank of 15th in 2009.  There were 11 fatalities in 2010 compared to 10 in 2009, and 6 injuries compared to 5 in 2009.  The top five parishes in Louisiana in trespasser casualties from 2007-2010, comprising 50.7 percent, are Caddo, Ouachita, Bossier, Natchitoches, and St. Tammany Parishes.

“Despite overall gains in rail safety in the past decade, these latest statistics show that Operation Lifesaver must continue its work to educate drivers and pedestrians about the dangers present around tracks and trains,” said Sramek.

“Louisiana has doubled its educational efforts through speaking engagements, email newsletters, a restructured website (www.laoperationlifesaver.org), and increased communication to extend its outreach to our citizens,” said Edwards.

Louisiana Operation Lifesaver pro­vides speakers for free rail safety presen­tations and materials for audiences of any profession and age group, along with resources on its website, www.laoperationlifesaver.org.  “We need to successfully educate people to stay off the tracks, understand and obey crossing laws, and use common sense around trains,” said Edwards.

“Operation Lifesaver needs your help to save lives,” said Edwards.  “To become certified as a presenter or to schedule a presentation for an organization, school or company, please visit www.laoperationlifesaver.org, email patricia.edwards@la.gov, or call 225-921-8381.”

ABOUT Louisiana Operation Lifesaver – Louisiana Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit organization with the mission of reducing the number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions and trespasser incidents by providing targeted safety and prevention programs.