CHARLOTTE (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — The number of people killed by trains fell in 2020, according to Operation Lifesaver North Carolina. Any number, though, is too high, according to the non-profit that focuses on rail safety and educating the public about the dangers of trespassing on railroad property.
Thirteen people from North Carolina died in 2020 after they were hit by a train. Only one of those people were in a car at a crossing, the rest were people on the railroad tracks.
Besides losing your life, trespassing on railroad property can carry a fine or imprisonment. Railroaders who have spent their entire career working over different roads all say the same thing about trying to outrun a train.
“The train always wins, it has no conscious.”
Christopher Whitley is a veteran engineer who’s been behind the controls of locomotives for decades. He says the number of people who still try to beat the train is astounding.
“It happens way too often. Everywhere, sometime during that trip, you’ll either get a pedestrian or automobile that’s going to try and get in front of you… every day.”
Steven Weathers, Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer on the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railroad says taking your chances on a train will likely result in death.
“When you’re dealing with equipment this big, this fast, and destructive… You don’t have small accidents. When you get hurt, it’s a decapitation or a loss of a limb.”
While many people believe the sound of a locomotive will alert them to a train approaching, that isn’t always the case. Many trains are so quiet they can approach from behind and strike a car or pedestrian. While engineers can only do so much to avoid a collision, Weathers says it’s up to the public to always remain clear of the tracks.
“We train our engineers to keep a watch out for people and cars, to think about and anticipate their movement. Think about what they’re going to do.”