Operation Lifesaver Rides The Rails

Police officers and community leaders took an eye-opening ride on a CSX train Thursday. They got a close-up look at the kind of safety concerns train engineers face every day.

Drivers constantly try to outrun the train. Many of them make it. Some do not. Mississippi currently ranks 11th in the nation, in the number of car-train accidents.

Hurried drivers take a chance by crossing in front of an oncoming train all the time.

Engineer Harold Downey doesn't like it, but he's come to expect it. He's been driving trains 44 years and watching cars cut in front of him for just as long.

"I don't think I've had a day that I haven't had someone try to outrun the train. A lot of 'em make it. Some of 'em don't."

Those that don't, find themselves facing the force of a 10,000-ton train; a train that takes up to a mile to stop.

Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Vaughan couldn't believe the number of cars that kept cutting in front of the oncoming locomotive.

"I really got a good perspective on what the engineer goes through, and basically what they see, to see the cars and whether they stop or they don't stop."

Operation Lifesaver wants drivers to think about oncoming trains whenever they cross the tracks. A moment of distraction can turn into tragedy. But safety promoters admit it will take more than public awareness to reduce accidents.

"More than education, it's going to take law enforcement. Engineering. Closing unnecessary crossings. All of that together I think will really put a dent into it," said Operation Lifesaver's Ron Owens.

The safety advice from engineer Downey is simple. Whenever you approach the tracks remember this: it's train time. And trains always have the right of way.