A vehicle or a pedestrian is struck by a train every three hours in the United States, and 60 percent of these tragedies happen at railroad crossings with active warning devices.

With one of Nebraska City’s main arteries being closed down, vehicles and pedestrians are urged to be extra careful when crossing railroad tracks.

Operation Lifesaver Inc. hosted educational meetings with Nebraska City Public Schools last week to educate students on railroad safety. Operation Lifesaver had a meeting for the general public last week and will offer another free meeting tonight at 6:30 at the Rowe Safety Complex, located at 1518 Central Ave. The meeting is expected to last 30 to 45 minutes.

Nebraska City City Administrator Grayson Path said the city wanted to team up with Operation Lifesaver to provide railroad safety education to residents and students in the community due to the 4th Corso viaduct closing.

“With the recent closing of the 4th Corso viaduct, encounters between motorists, pedestrians and trains have increased. As this is unavoidable, we wish to educate people on how to encounter train safety,” Path said. “The more the citizens know, the safer they will conduct themselves around trains and railroad tracks.”

A digital sign was placed along Central Avenue at the railroad tracks near the Nebraska City Utilities building shortly after the city met with Operation Lifesaver representatives and school officials Sept. 9. The sign warns motorists and pedestrians to be careful while crossing the railroad tracks and to “see tracks, think trains.” Path said the sign is a useful tool to remind people of trains passing through town on the tracks.

“Following the first closing of the viaduct and then the reports of further issues, the city wanted to find ways of educating, or re-educating, our public about railroad safety,” Path said. “Operation Lifesaver has been in the schools before, as well as taught classes for the city employees, so we knew of them from the past.”

During tonight’s presentation, people will be provided with educational materials, brochures, videos, coloring books for children and more. Operation Lifesaver is available to speak at any business and civic group, especially those that have emergency responders, drivers, motorists or others who interact with railroad tracks.

Path said Operation Lifesaver hosted a meeting Thursday evening at the St. Benedict Church, located at 411 5th Rue. However, no one attended.

“I was hoping that we could attract some visitors from the east side of the railroad tracks tonight, but perhaps we will have a full room on Tuesday,” Path said Thursday evening.

Path added that Operation Lifesaver was successful last week with sessions for students and businesses, and more will take place this week. Operation Lifesaver’s local representative Tom Hillyard of Falls City said there were 1,631 people who attended the 17 presentations at the public schools and businesses. Hillyard is a retired Union Pacific conductor who now dedicates his time with giving Operation Lifesaver trainings in the surrounding states.

Path said Operation Lifesaver is visiting with Lourdes Central Catholic Schools students today.  

Operation Lifesaver is a non-profit national public education program that has aimed at ending collisions, deaths and injuries at locations where roads cross railroad tracks and on railroad right-of-ways since 1972. Operation Lifesaver hosts meetings and training sessions to promote public awareness of highway-rail crossings and encourages people to follow traffic laws relating to crossing signs and signals and private property related to rail trespassing.

Operation Lifesaver programs are sponsored by federal, state and local government agencies; highway safety organizations and railroads across the nation.

Operation Lifesaver offers the following driving safety tips on its Web site:

Trains and cars do not mix. People should never try to beat a train to a railroad crossing.

People may not realize it, but a train is closer and moving faster than one thinks. If people see a train coming, they’re encouraged to wait for it to go by before proceeding across the railroad tracks.

People should never drive around lowered gates. Not only is this illegal, but it’s deadly. If someone suspects that a signal isn’t working correctly, they should call the phone number posted on or near the crossing signal or call the local law enforcement agency.

Don’t get trapped on the railroad tracks. People should always proceed through the tracks without stopping. Drivers should also note that trains are 3 feet wider than the tracks on both sides.

If a vehicle stalls on the tracks with a train coming, get out of the vehicle and quickly move away from the tracks in the direction that the train is coming to stay clear of flying debris from the train crashing into the vehicle.

While waiting for a train to pass at a multiple railroad track crossing, people should make sure that a second train isn’t coming on the other track from the other way.

Look both ways, cross the tracks quickly without stopping and cross the tracks at the designated crossing areas. Drivers should note that it’s never safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a railroad track.

People should also always expect a train because freight trains don’t follow set schedules.

The Web site also lists some safety tips for pedestrians crossing railroad tracks:

Only cross at a designated public crossing with either a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. People could be issued a ticket or a fine for trespassing if they chose to cross the tracks at a non-designated location.

Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property and trespassers could be arrested and fined.

Locomotive engineers who see someone on the tracks may not be about to stop in time because it could take a mile or more for a train to come to a complete stop.

Stay at least 3 feet away from the tracks while a train is driving through the crossing.

Don’t cross the tracks immediately after a train passes through the crossing because trains can come from both directions at the same time.

Never cross the tracks if the track signal is flashing red lights because a train is coming and failure to stop could result in a fine, injury or death.

Don’t hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles. Trestles aren’t meant to be sidewalks or bridges for pedestrians. People should never walk, cycle, run or operate all-terrain vehicles on railroad tracks, right-of-ways or through railroad tunnels.

Never jump aboard a train or railroad equipment.

Not all trains follow a set schedule. A train can come at any time.

For more information about Operation Lifesaver, go to oli.org.