Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has tracks that run right through Macon, and now the company has targeted south and Middle Georgia to promote its annual railroad crossing safety campaign.
“Across the country there is a tremendous problem with people taking risks at highway railroad crossings,” said Susan Terpay, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern.
Striving to save lives by reminding pedestrians and motorists to be alert around railroad crossings, railroad officials decided to roll out its campaign, called Train Your Brain, in Georgia because of an increasing trend of incidents and trespasses on railroad tracks and railroad crossings.
This week, a Forsyth woman was struck while she was walking along the train tracks at Hawkinsville Road and Broadway in Macon. The accident is under investigation, but it is illegal to walk on railroad tracks without permission, according to state law.
In 2014, Georgia ranked the fifth-highest in the U.S. for collisions at railroad crossings and the 10th highest in trespassing incidents, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization that partners with railroad companies to promote education about railroad safety. Terpay said the state is consistently in the top 15.
Georgia law says vehicles must stop within 50 feet of all railroad crossings, except those that are abandoned, and describes entering a railroad car as criminal trespass, which is prohibited.
The campaign launched with the installment of billboards that went up last week along the Interstate 75 corridor from Macon to Valdosta. The billboards’ photos and captions, such as “She needs story time” or “Your fan club is waiting,” are meant to remind motorists that they have family and loved ones depending on them to return home safely.
The Train Your Brain campaign’s mascot is Brainy, a giant wide-eyed brain that can walk and appears to be smiling. Brainy will be making appearances at various sporting events, festivals and fairs.
Additionally, people in the area also may spot the advertisements in movie trailers, on gas pumps and ice chests at convenience stores, on game tickets at 38 high schools and on folders for 63 public elementary schools. As many as 3,600 students enrolled in driver’s education programs at 18 public high schools will receive rail safety kits.
“You just can’t gauge the speed of a train,” Terpay said. “It’s an optical illusion.”
She said many people erroneously feel invincible, and they think nothing can hurt them.
A freight train travelling 50 mph could take a mile to a mile and a half to stop, Terpay said.
“We know you’re smart, but what’s not smart is walking on railroad tracks,” Terpay said.
Brainy will have a booth set up at the Tunes & Balloons Family Music Fest on Sept. 12 and again at the Georgia National State Fair on Oct. 8-18. Giveaways will be offered that encourage railroad safety, such as coloring books and T-shirts.
The Train Your Brain campaign also will sponsor the Battle of the Bands during next spring’s Cherry Blossom Festival although the date, time and location have not yet been determined.
“When you think tracks, think trains,” Terpay said. “And expect a train at any crossing.”
This is the ninth year of the Train Your Brain campaign, and previously the campaign ran in Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Norfolk Southern Railway Co., a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Corp., operates 20,000 route miles of track in 22 states plus the District of Columbia.
For more information on the Train Your Brain campaign and the whereabouts of mascot Brainy himself, go to www.brainysworld.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrainysWorld.
To contact writer Conner Wood, call 744-4489.