SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Statistics can be frightening. In this case, the ones from Mississippi Operation Lifesaver are meant to be. As of May, four people have been killed this year at a railroad crossing in Mississippi. Two of those were in Harrison County.
About every three hours, a vehicle and train collide in the United States. About 20 percent of highway/rail crashes at public crossings occur where active warning devices exist.
A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash with a train than in a collision with another vehicle, but those statistics aren't as scary as what Rebecca Dorn has seen.
While living in Michigan, Dorn witnessed a train/car collision right in front of her. Fortunately, everyone survived, but she is worried that the results won't be as good near the intersection of her Biloxi apartment.
"Every now and then I do (see careless driving at the railroad intersection). They're not focusing on the bigger picture here. I mean, you can't beat the train," said Dorn.
Motorists in Biloxi had an extra incentive to slow down near railroad crossings recently. Representatives with Mississippi Operation Lifesaver and the Biloxi Police Department were out during the Railroad Safety Blitz reminding motorists and pedestrians to not take chances when crossing the tracks.
Safety officials say there's little that can be done to improve the infrastructure to make railroad crossings safer. The Executive Director of Mississippi Operational Lifesaver, Kim Sloan, is hoping that awareness is the answer.
"There's a serious situation, and these deaths are preventable," Sloan said. "That's why we're here. We're here to let people know that you just always have to be aware of the train. When you see tracks, you should think trains."
Organizers say these intersections were chosen because of their potential for danger. It's also fitting that it's on one of the streets named after a city council member and train safety advocate who was killed in a train/car accident in 1983, Michael Esters.
Officials also spent time at the crossing near the intersection of Iris Street and Greater Avenue. Dangerous driving in that area has been a constant worry for resident Courtney Smith.
"I've been waiting to hear a big loud bang and have to run out here and first thing call 911," said Smith.
Operation Lifesaver presentations are free of charge to schools and organizations. For more information, call 601-359-7539 or 601-594-4713.