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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Friday announced it's taking the first step in a new, multifaceted campaign aimed at strengthening enforcement and safety awareness at grade crossings.The FRA is calling on local law enforcement agencies to increase their presence at crossings, issue citations to drivers that violate crossing rules and consider rapid implementation of best practices for crossing safety.The campaign also calls for employing smarter uses of technology, increasing public awareness of crossing safety — including distracted driving — improving signage, working closer with states and local safety agencies, and seeking new funding for greater crossing safety."Recent accidents in New York and California are important reminders of our shared challenge to both educate the public about grade crossing safety, and to enforce appropriate behavior around railroad operations," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release. "Grade crossing and trespassing accidents are serious challenges to maintaining public safety. Every three hours of every day, someone is hit by a train in the United States and we must do all we can to heighten public awareness, strengthen enforcement efforts and pioneer new technologies to better secure public safety."There are 250,711 crossings in the United States, about 51 percent of which are public crossings. Only half of all public grade crossings have automatic-warning systems and only a third have flashing lights and gates, according to the FRA.Preliminary statistics show 239 people were killed and 763 were injured in crossing incidents last year. The FRA has worked with the Federal Highway Administration and state departments of transportation to close more than 18,000 crossings nationwide since 2008."The reality is that while the overall number of deaths and injuries from grade crossing incidents has come down significantly over the last two decades, this remains a serious problem," said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. "In addition to this renewed outreach to law enforcement, the FRA will take a fresh look at our grade crossing programs and activities."Meanwhile, the FRA also aims to increase the prevention of right-of-way and trespasser incidents and fatalities. To that end, the agency has scheduled a 2015 Right-of-Way Fatality and Trespass Prevention Workshop for Aug. 4-6 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.More than 400 fatalities occur each year due to trespassing, the leading cause of rail-related deaths. The free workshop seeks to identify and share existing industry best practices and explore new trespass abatement and mitigation strategies that the rail industry can adopt to reduce incidents and fatalities. The event's agenda will cover community outreach and education, enforcement, technology and infrastructure, intentional acts/deaths and pedestrian safety."With nearly 95 percent of the fatalities that occur on our nation's railroads the result of trespassing and grade crossing accidents, I can not envision a more important workshop to enhance railroad safety," said Feinberg. "Working together with industry, law enforcement, first responders, state and local officials, and the public are the only way we will continue to drive continuous safety improvement and save lives."
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