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Public warned to stay off railroad tracks

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Authorities are urging people not to take pictures standing on or near railroad tracks this prom season.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

State and local officials are asking folks not to take pictures standing on or near railroad tracks this prom season.

“You put your life at risk by walking, playing or taking pictures on railroad tracks. It’s not only dangerous, it is illegal,” said Jason Orthner, director of the state's Rail Division. “We need people to understand the real dangers of taking photos on railroad tracks.”

Rocky Mount has a large major rail yard and the number of trains per day is very high, said Sgt. Brad Summerlin, public information officer for the Rocky Mount Police Department.

“People need to understand the trespassing laws and follow them,” Summerlin said. “Safety is paramount and we encourage our citizens to please adhere to all the local and state laws. Rocky Mount is a beautiful city with many places to take pictures that will be safe locations to do so.”

The state Transportation Department’s BeRailSafe program is asking people to stay away from tracks year round, but especially during prom season. Standing on or near railroad tracks is trespassing, said state transportation spokeswoman Katie Trout. She said people wouldn't stand in the middle of an interstate to take a photo so why do they think it's safe to stand on railroad tracks.

Authorities are working with the state Department of Public Instruction to have school yearbook staff advisers alert students and photographers of how dangerous it is to take photos on or near railroad tracks.

Last year, 18 people were killed and 13 others injured, while trespassing on North Carolina railroad tracks.

“Those are 18 people who will not be returning home to their families,” Orthner said. “We want to remind everyone that these types of accidents are avoidable if you stay off and away from the tracks.”

Some important safety information for photographers and students to remember are:

■ Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and rights-of-way are private property, and using them as photo backdrops is trespassing.

■ Trains cannot stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the railroad tracks.

■ It is difficult to determine a train’s speed from a distance. Trains typically overhang the track by at least three feet.

■ Never assume railroad tracks are abandoned or inactive.

■ Due to new technology, approaching trains are much quieter than you’d expect, so don’t assume you’ll hear one coming.

BeRailSafe works with North Carolina Operation Lifesaver, railroads and other safety stakeholders to educate children, teens and adults on the dangers of trespassing on railroad tracks, property and equipment. BeRailSafe provides free rail safety information through presentations at elementary schools, civic groups and businesses, and distributes safety materials.

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