The Point:  Sept. 23-27 is Rail Safety Week — Stay Off, Stay Away, and Stay Alive!

On a warm morning in November 2014, students at Innovative Horizons Charter School in Perris filed into the school’s multipurpose room for “assembly day.”  The subject? Rail safety.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, students and staff learned to always expect a train and it takes more than mile for a train to stop. They also learned to not walk or play on the tracks and to cross only at marked crossings.

Photo of a student holding a rail safety frame.

Innovative Horizons, like many schools in Riverside County, is located near railroad tracks, but many students – as well as staff and parents – do not fully understand the dangers of trespassing on railroad property. While it may seem surprising that students and adults need to be told to stay off train tracks, the harsh reality is that every three hours, a person or vehicle in the United States is hit by a train, and the results are often fatal.

Five years ago, during construction of Metrolink’s 91/Perris Valley Line, RCTC began looking down the line to the expansion of passenger rail service to Perris.  Although there were railroad tracks in the area, slow-moving freight trains used the tracks only one or two days each week. With faster, more frequent Metrolink trains headed to the Perris Valley in 2016, RCTC knew it was time to start talking to the community about rail safety.

Working in partnership with California Operation Lifesaver, Inc., RCTC began a rail safety education program for communities along the 91/Perris Valley Line. RCTC has since expanded the program to Corona, Jurupa Valley, Banning, Beaumont and the Coachella Valley.

photo of rail safety presentation at school

Since that November morning, RCTC has reached thousands of students and community members in Riverside County with informational booths, assemblies, presentations, pep rallies, back to school nights, poster contests, street banners, sidewalk stickers, videos, movie theater ads, and social media content.

RCTC also has been meeting with the students at the University of California-Riverside, Cal Baptist University, La Sierra University, and Riverside Community College to learn how specific rail incidents have affected the students’ lives and how to work together to keep people off the railroad tracks.

Educational activities are continuing, with events throughout the year and particularly during Rail Safety Week, Sept. 23-27. RCTC will conduct an assembly at Nicolet Middle School in Banning on September 27 and host a rail safety booth at UCR’s Block Party on September 28. Also on September 27, students and staff countywide are encouraged to wear red to stress the importance of preventing trespassing on railroad tracks and to use the #RedOutforRailSafety hashtag on social media.

Operation Lifesaver has a wealth of news, events, and statistics related to Rail Safety Week. Learn more.