Iowa has one of the nation’s worst rates of children being hit by trains, according to a study by a non-profit group that works to protect kids from preventable injuries.
Nadji Kirby, senior program manager at Safe Kids Worldwide, says Iowa has the country’s third-highest percentage of railroad-related accidents involving kids.
“In Iowa, between 2010 and 2019, there were 54 children injured in rail-related incidents,” Kirby says. “Of those, 12 were fatal and 42 were non-fatal.”
Those accidents accounted for 16-percent of all rail-related injuries in Iowa, ranking the state behind only Indiana at 20-percent and Idaho at 19-percent.
The study found many parents don’t realize the importance of addressing railroad safety, with fewer than half of parents surveyed saying they’ve talked with their kids about it — and half of parents admit to taking risks around railroads.
“The majority of parents don’t consider children being hit by trains to be a big problem, despite the fact that we found that every five days a child is killed in a train collision,” she says.
Safe Kids Worldwide and Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad are working to increase awareness and educate families about how to be safe around train tracks.
Kirby says railroad crossing accidents often occur when a driver isn’t paying attention near the tracks, when drivers or walkers choose to go around a safety barrier, or when they race to cross the track before the train passes.
“Talk to the kids about only crossing at designated crossings that are marked by signs, lights and gates,” Kirby says. “Always wait for the train to completely pass because trains can take up to a mile to stop, so once a train sees you, it might be too late. Also, the importance of not being distracted around tracks or trains, because distraction is a big issue, driving and/or walking.”
For motorists, allow plenty of space when stopped at railroad crossings, as trains are at least three feet wider than the tracks on either side.