McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

April 4, 2014

Rail expert: Don't try to beat a train at railroad crossings

McALESTER — Don’t try to beat a train.

That’s the possibly lifesaving advice from Donnie Howdeshell, a locomotive engineer and Operation Lifesaver presenter for the Union Pacific Railroad.

While that may sound like a no-brainer, unfortunately a number of drivers and even pedestrians attempt to do so each year, with often deadly results.

Howdeshell spoke of railroad safety during a special UP train trip from McAlester, to the edge of Kiowa, and back, on Tuesday.

He calls the presentation “Look, Listen and Live.”

Since the Operation Lifesaver campaign began in 1972 to increase awareness regarding  railroad safety, there’s been an 87 percent decrease in incidents involving trains and either motorists or pedestrians, Howdeshell said.

Still, there are numerous collisions.

“Every three hours in the U.S., an automobile or a pedestrian is struck by a train,” Howdeshell said.

“We hit a lot of pedestrians walking the track who aren’t paying attention for whatever reason,” Howdeshell said, referring to the railroad industry nationwide.

Odds aren’t high of surviving for pedestrians or those in a vehicle that collides with a train.

“If you get hit by a train, you’re 20 times more likely to die than if you’re hit by an automobile,” Howdeshell said

He indicated he wished drivers and pedestrians would pay more attention to safety, but that, unfortunately, is not always the case.

“You know how you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” Howdeshell said.

Almost half of the collisions involving trains occur at crossings with active warning devices, according to Operation Lifesaver. Howdeshell said those who go around lowered railroad crossings should get a ticket — and not for a train trip.

“If somebody’s going around our crossing gates, they should be ticketed by local police,” he said.

He also spoke of the difficulty of stopping a train in motion. The locomotive and passenger coaches in McAlester on Tuesday weighed around 12 million pounds, he said. Another train, pulling a series loaded coal cars, weighed approximately 36 million pounds.

Still, some people seem to think stopping a train is like stopping a car.

“You’ve got steel wheels on a steel track,” Howdeshell said. “It’s physically impossible to stop on a dime.”

He asked those riding on the Columbine passenger car what they should do if they are driving and their vehicle stalls at a railroad crossing.

“If your car stalls in the middle of a crossing, what should you do?” Howdeshell asked.

“Get out!” a number of the passengers responded.

“A lot of people don’t,” Howdeshell said.

He also pointed out that there are phones installed in blue boxes at number of railroad crossings, that has a 1-800 number when the caller can reach a “live” person to tell the railroad about a stalled car.

“The dispatcher can notify approaching trains,” he said.

Walking along railroad tracks or on railroad property is considered dangerous and is a criminal offense, information from Operation Lifesaver states.

Since 1997, more people have been injured or killed in the U.S. in incidents involving trespassing than at railroad crossings, according to Operation Lifesaver.

That’s something the UP wants pedestrians and drivers to remember when around railroad tracks, according to information given during the train ride, along with the following:

• Always expect a train.

• Any time is train time.

• Stay off. Stay away. Stay alive.

“I want you to look and listen —to live,” said Howdeshell.

Contact James Beaty at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
NDN Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.