State and local authorities raise awareness on railroad safety

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Norfolk Southern Police and Hattiesburg Patrol Officers worked side by side the town's tracks to warn residents about the dangers of trespassing railroad tracks.

In conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Laurel Police Department, and the Federal Railroad Administration, authorities are set for a two-day campaign in Hattiesburg and Laurel to teach residents safety tips.

Patrol officers said people cross the tracks illegally every single day because it takes less time to get to their destination.

Officer Chad Young with Hattiesburg Police Department said, "Walking on railroad tracks or using them as shortcuts is trespassing, and is illegal."

Officer Young said their mission is to let the community understand proper ways to cross tracks. "Maybe once we talk to people today, they will go back and tell a possible kid more safety tips" said Young.

While authorities were driving up and down railroad tracks, one local resident was caught in the act of crossing illegally.

Danny Sparks said he has been crossing the tracks for up to 15 years because it is convenient.

"I've seen a train coming, and yeah I crossed it when the train was coming, but no ways I am going to let that big thing hit me" said Sparks.

He said he has never seen warning signs placed around railroad tracks.

"I just do not understand how a person can get hit by a train walking" added Sparks.

In the past three years, 17 people died, and 18 were injured while trespassing on railroad property in the state said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

The FRA also said nationally in 2015, there were 882 trespasser casualties (injuries and deaths), 414 of those were fatal.

Officials said trains are not on a set schedule and people have a 10-15 seconds warning before it approaches closely at a fast pace.

More commonly, authorities see people walking with electronics with earphones and do not hear a train coming.

Gary Hedgepath an Inspector for the Norfolk Southern Police Department said, "To have those in (earphones) and be walking down the center of the rail or adjacent to the rail is dangerous."

Norfolk Southern, Hattiesburg, and Laurel Police Officers will pass out flyers to the community to continue to raise awareness about railroad safety Thursday.

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