RALEIGH- The N.C. Department of Transportation hosted a Rail Safety Summit today in Chapel Hill aimed at combating the unusually high number of vehicular and trespasser deaths on North Carolina's railways since January. Fifteen people have died on North Carolina's railroad tracks so far this year, compared to 18 fatalities in all of 2012.
"Safety is always our top priority, and these tragedies are absolutely devastating, especially because in most cases they could have been prevented, "said N.C. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. "We must work quickly to help curb these tragic occurrences and find more effective methods to get the word out to everyone to stay off the tracks."
At the summit, more than 100 community leaders and law enforcement groups from across the state discussed ways to improve rail safety education and discourage distracted drivers and trespassers on and around railroad tracks.
Tata addressed the group at the start of the summit, and Amtrak Police Chief Polly Hanson provided a national law enforcement rail safety perspective during her keynote luncheon remarks. N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan delivered the summit's closing remarks.
"The Department of Public Safety is committed to continuing its partnership with NCDOT, law enforcement and others in educating the public on rail safety," Secretary Shanahan said. "If we all work together on this effort, we will save lives and make our communities safer."
The ideas and suggestions generated by the summit participants will be considered for the NCDOT Rail Division's overall safety plan and approach to keeping people safe on the state's railroad tracks.
The summit was the next step in a collaborative effort that began with a Rail Safety Roundtable Secretary Tata led in February with industry leaders.