Idaho Operation Life Saver focuses on safety at railroad crossings

Posted at 3:34 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 17:49:56-05

Idaho Operation Life Saver has promoted safety at railroad crossing through education and awareness for more than 50 years.

We have worked with this non-profit in two separate occasions where they have partnered with the Idaho State Police in compliancy checks to remind drivers that they need to be aware of trains at crossing.

"The engineers and the conductors they are affected by the instances they see as well," said Tim Johnson of Idaho Operation Life Saver. "They are driving the train, they don’t want to see a crash, they don’t want to be involved in a crash either as it causes them a lot of trauma as well."

Tim Johnson is in charge of the Idaho chapter of this national organization and we spoke with him via phone in north Idaho regarding the tragic accident where 67-year-old Gary Baker of Meridian lost his life after being on the tracks when a train came through.

"Looking at the photos of the area, it’s a pretty wide open, rural crossing," said Johnson. "There are no sight restrictions either way so it has to be driver error which, unfortunately, cost him his life, why he did not stop or didn’t see the train, we don’t know."

We scouted out the area as the rural crossing at East Kuna Mora Road and South Eagle Road. The crossing has a stop sign warning, railroad crossing markings on the pavement and then a stop sign before the crossing.

We went to the next railroad crossing at Cloverdale, a much busier road near a new subdivision and it is an active crossing, meaning it had lights and a gate.

Johnson told us it is possible to upgrade crossings, but before anything can happen they have to do a traffic study to figure out what is needed at a crossing.

"Just because there is one incident at a crossing doesn’t mean they are automatically going to put up lights and gates," said Johnson. "It is quite an extensive process to get an active crossing put up, but if the traffic study calls for it the railroad and the highway department will get together and find the funds to do that."

More than anything Idaho Operation Life Savers asks people to be vigilant near crossings, as last year there were more than 2,000 accidents of trains colliding with vehicles or pedestrians across the country, 234 people lost their lives.

"It’s the same message. The bad thing is everyone is complacent until something like this happens," said Johnson. "Always expect a train, they generally don't run on schedules, when they have a load ready to go, they go."

Idaho Operation Life Saver has a link on their website where the public can report unsafe railroad crossings.