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LIRR seeks to prevent deaths on the tracks

A new Long Island Rail Road public safety campaign aims to keep trespassers off its tracks and out of the path of moving agency trains, which killed 28 people last year.

The railroad Wednesday launched the campaign, which includes print, television and online ads branded with the message: "Don't Shortcut Your Life." The slogan refers to the dangerous practice of pedestrians walking across train tracks to shorten their trips.

Such trespassing, the LIRR said, is illegal, and often deadly. Of 35 trespassers struck by LIRR trains in 2013, 28 died. The fatalities include some apparent suicides.

Railroad officials said the victims ignored warnings, including fences, signs, lights, bells and crossing gates, and risked their lives "and the lives of others seeking a quicker way to get where they wanted to go."

The ad campaign includes a 15-second video showing a train bearing down on a distracted trespasser wearing headphones. While the video is computer-generated, LIRR said it illustrates the dangers of walking on tracks.

"Trains operate at a high rate of speed and take a long distance to come to a stop," LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said in a statement. "No one should ever be on the tracks or Right of Way as trains can come through without warning."

In addition to its ad campaign, the LIRR said it will reach out to its riders through announcements, posters and electronic messages at stations, and through its social media efforts.

Carol Steckbeck, spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver, a national organization dedicated to promoting train safety, said public awareness campaigns like the LIRR's are an important part of stopping railroad trespassing, which killed 430 people in the United States last year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

"All of these campaigns are aimed at trying to make caution an automatic habit for people," Steckbeck said. "I think many people underestimate how quiet trains can be, and how quickly they come upon you."


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