Operation Lifesaver (OL), Canada's national public rail safety program, launched the 11th annual Public-Rail Safety Week (PRSW), a nationwide initiative aimed at raising awareness among Canadians of the safety implications around railway lines.
Various safety and policing measures have been put in place by railways to prevent collisions involving trains and motor vehicles at rail crossings and stop trespassing on rail property.
PRSW 2013 runs from April 29 to May 5 under the theme of "A Shared Responsibility," emphasizing that Canadians play an important role in rail safety. During PRSW, OL partners and volunteers promote the importance of rail safety by engaging in dozens of community-level events and local activities, including school presentations, crossing blitzes and mock collisions.
"This year's theme, 'A shared responsibility,' means that preventing needless occurrences is a joint effort," said Mike Regimbal, national director of Operation Lifesaver. "Public-Rail Safety Week is the biggest of the many initiatives put forth by the rail industry throughout the year to promote rail safety and if the public learns about best practices, there's no reason why we can't avoid these incidents."
According to polling conducted by Leger Marketing for the Railway Association of Canada in March 2012, the vast majority (83%) of Canadians perceive railway transportation, including freight and passenger transportation, as the safest means of transportation and best for society overall compared to trucks, buses and cars.
While these positive results reflect the rail sector's enviable safety record, crossing and trespassing incidents across the country are on the rise. In 2012, there were 261 railway crossing and trespasser accidents in Canada, including 78 fatalities and 53 serious injuries. Year over year, accidents increased by 10%, fatalities by 11% and serious injuries by 23%. Moreover, the rates of fatalities and serious injuries were both higher than the five-year average from 2007 to 2011.
Rail statistics are compiled monthly by the Transportation Safety Board.