(Columbus, Georgia – July 25, 2012)
Seeking to convince police officers that railroad grade crossing and pedestrian accidents are always the fault of members of the general public and never the railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway held a two-day “educational” course, complete with train ride, souvenirs and food, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, with 19 officers from at least four Columbus, GA-area law enforcement agencies as their guests.
The dog-and-pony show, more commonly known as the Grade Crossing Collision Investigation Course, was sponsored by Georgia Operation Lifesaver, The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and Norfolk Southern, with field exercises at the NS Columbus Yard facility and classroom sessions at the GPSTC Columbus Regional Academy.
“We’re hoping that they (the public police agency participants) will walk away from this class with a basic knowledge of how the railroad works and how investigating a collision between a train and a motor vehicle is different than your average car wreck that they normally investigate,” explained Norfolk Southern Supervisory Special Agent Harold Pearson of Atlanta, GA.
Pearson further explained, in an interview by Columbus Ledger Enquirer Writer Mike Haskey, that the course is intended to educate the officers about laws concerning railroad crossings, as well as encourage the officers to watch for violations and to either issue a citation or give the motorist a warning and educate them on the appropriate law violations, which include stopping on the tracks, driving around the crossing arms, and going through crossings without stopping when signal lights are flashing.
Indicating that there has been an increase in railroad pedestrian incidents and accidents, Pearson said “What we are seeing an increase of is injuries and fatalities involving what we call trespassers, people walking up and down the tracks,” adding that “Most of the public doesn’t understand that railroad tracks are private property.”