April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Learn more about Operation Lifesaver

METAIRIE -- Louisiana Operation Lifesaver has been around since 1981. It's mission: “To end collisions, deaths and injuries at places where roadways cross train tracks and on railroad rights-of-way.”

"Last year we were the seventh worst in the nation with 84 collisions, 10 fatalities and 50 injuries at railroad crossings. So for a small state, those numbers are pretty staggering," says Claude Maher with Louisiana Operation Lifesaver.

That’s why Operation Lifesaver stages mock crashes to promote rail safety. It’s an opportunity for emergency responders and law enforcement personnel to practice rescue and response drills, to be prepared in the event of a real emergency and raise awareness.

“I want people to be safe and obey the law. Stop when the lights are flashing. Never stop on the tracks. Never go around lowered gates," says Maher.

While the message is a seemingly simple one, people disobey the law more often than not. So much so, railroad engineers are starting to speak out.

"The train crews have been reporting that people are totally disregarding the lights and they're worried that they're going to hit someone, cause an injury or possibly a fatality," says Maher.

That's why mock exercises are paramount. Louisiana Operation Lifesaver teamed up with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office to promote rail safety, riding alongside railroad engineers and staging boots on the ground near crossings, issuing both warnings and citations that can cost you upwards of $275.

But is it worth it?

"A citation is one thing, but your life is worth much more than a few minutes and a ticket," says Maher.

So obey the law because being distracted can mean the difference between life and death. Especially, at railroad crossings.

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