Metra will conduct 54 Operation Lifesaver Safety Blitzes in 2018 at 54 train stations across its service six-county region around Chicago. Metra says the blitzes are part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of safe behavior around its trains and tracks.
During a safety blitz, Metra safety employees will be at one of the commuter railroad’s 242 stations during the morning commute, distributing educational materials about train and grade-crossing safety, answering questions and listening to commuters’ safety concerns. A short video about grade crossing safety is also available for customers to view while they wait for their train. Local police and fire officials are also invited to participate.
“Safety is always Metra’s highest priority,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “These safety blitzes allow us to reach our customers directly to ensure that they understand the need to stay vigilant about safety around the railroad.”
Illinois has the second-largest rail system in the nation with more than 7,300 miles of railroad track and 11,436 public and private rail crossings. In 2017, Illinois ranked third in the nation in rail fatalities at highway-rail crossings and sixth in the nation in trespassing fatalities. Last year, 45 people were killed and 49 more were injured in incidents at grade crossings or along railroad right-of-way in Illinois. Ten of these fatalities involved Metra trains and 25 of theses fatalities occurred at rail crossings. Metra notes that these numbers do not include deaths ruled as suicides or suspected suicides.
The intent of the safety blitz program is primarily educational. However, Metra, through its Police Department, will also conduct additional enforcement blitzes at locations throughout the region where citations and warnings will be issued to pedestrians and drivers who ignore gates and warning devices.
Metra also promotes safety through its annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest for the region’s schoolchildren and conducts nearly 1,000 free Operation Lifesaver presentations annually to schools, community groups, school bus drivers, professional truck drivers, emergency responders and other organizations throughout the region.