Rail Safety Week (April 26 to May 2) was not just for trains - the Canadian Pacific and its police service reminded all people to take railway crossings seriously.
Constable David Mess travelled through Saskatchewan and stopped at Yorkton on Friday, April 30th to talk about rail safety.
"I would say about 35 per cent of all rail crossings in Canada are in Saskatchewan," he said. "The majority of crossings are uncontrolled."
Approaching an uncontrolled rail crossing should be treated the same way as any other uncontrolled intersection. It is not enough to listen for a train - motorists, cyclists and pedestrians must yield before crossing.
Statistics from January and February of 2010 reveal 53 accidents involving trains and vehicles in Canada. Eleven of those accidents were fatalities, and four were seriously injured. In those two months alone, there were an additional five fatalities from trespasser incidents, and five more seriously injured.Constable Mess reminded pedestrians to cross at public crossings - on roads and sidewalks. Even if there is a beaten-down path across a field leading over train tracks, it is not legal to cross. In fact, after a provincial law added in July 2009 prohibited trespassing on any private property, it can be both a provincial and federal offence to be on the tracks.
"The rail line is where CP does business," said Mess. "If you have people walking through your office, it will disrupt business."
Uncontrolled rail crossings can be especially dangerous if people get in the habit of expecting the tracks to be clear. Excessive speed over crossings raises your risk of being struck, as it can be impossible to break it time if a train does appear.
At crossings with bells and lights, Constable Mess said the rules of a stop sign apply, except the train always has the right of way.
"When the lights are flashing, you are required to stop. If it is safe to proceed, you can do so."With such high numbers of railway fatalities, Mess said it is important to educate people as early as possible.
"If you see children playing on or around tracks, it doesn't take much time out of your day to tell them they shouldn't be playing there."
Public safety is the first concern of CP police officers. The more motorists and pedestrians realize the real hazards of railway crossings, the fewer people will lose their lives to 12,000-foot long trains that can stop for nothing, and nobody.