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Rail Safety Campaign Targets Calif. Teens

— State officials say California leads the nation in railroad crossing deaths, and teenagers are the number one at-risk group. Cal-Trans has launched a campaign aimed at preventing more deaths.

State transportation officials are trying to get teenagers to be more careful around railroad tracks. They say teens are the number one at-risk group for railroad crossing accidents.

Cal-Trans officials admit it isn’t easy convincing teens to take rail safety seriously.

“Kids today, unfortunately think they are invincible and we want to tell these kids ‘you’re not invincible.’”

Debbie Mullins is with Cal-Trans’ rail division. She says statistically, teens take more risks behind the wheel or even as pedestrians, listening to i-Pods or using their cell phones. So, Cal-Trans has helped launch a statewide campaign called “Respect the Rails”. It’s a six-week tour of high schools up-and-down the state. The teens are given a rail safety quiz and some prizes. But what really gets their attention is a simulated accident scene.

“They kind of stop and they stare at it for a while and you know it’s having an effect on them.”

What they’re staring at is an ambulance towing a life-size model of a car that’s been severely crushed by a train.

“Just the sheer power of a car that’s completely smashed really hits these kids.”

Mullins says California leads the nation in pedestrian-related railroad crossing deaths. Since 2007, there have been more than 120 fatalities.

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