Our community is inextricably lined to the railways.
Scores of trains cross through Dalton and Whitfield County each day, reinforcing the fact that this area has prospered in large part to the railway system crisscrossing our section of North Georgia. This is evidenced by the two railroad depots downtown, one of which has a deck for viewing passing trains.
While trains are part of the backbone of our transportation network — moving parts, products and people — they can also pose dangers to pedestrians and motorists. Every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train, and in Georgia, 69 people were killed or injured in 2021 in crossing collisions and rail trespassing incidents, according to Operation Lifesaver.
This year, Operation Lifesaver is celebrating its 50th anniversary. According to its website, the nonprofit organization “has been committed to preventing collisions, injuries and fatalities on and around railroad tracks and highway-rail grade crossings, with the support of public education programs in states across the U.S.”
Operation Lifesaver offered the following tips for railway safety:
• Never walk on or too close to railroad tracks and never use the tracks as a shortcut.
• Look and listen for trains as you approach any railroad crossing — avoid distractions and obey all signs, warning lights and gates.
• Always expect a train on any track, at any time, in any direction.
• Always cross railroad tracks legally and safely at designated crossings and obey warning signs and signals.
• Avoid getting stuck: Before crossing, be sure there is space on the other side to completely clear the tracks and because trains overhang tracks, leave at least 15 feet between the front and rear of your vehicle and the nearest rail.
• If your vehicle gets stuck or stalls at a crossing, get everyone out and far away immediately, even if you do not see a train. Find the Blue and White Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign at the crossing, call the number on the sign and share the crossing ID number with the dispatcher. No sign? Dial 911.