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Law enforcement focuses on train track safety in areas where fatals and injuries have taken place

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif.- The Union Pacific corridor in Santa Barbara County has ongoing concerns with the risk of pedestrians in the area of railroad tracks.

Each year there are injuries or deaths, often in the stretch between Gaviota and Carpinteria.

Operation Lifesaver is a nationwide organization that talks about improvements to clear the rail areas and alert the public to crossing regulations.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's department is joining in the efforts locally, in what is called Operation Clear Track as part of Rail Safety Week.

Sgt.  Noel Rivas with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department says, "this particular area from Gaviota down to Carpinteria has the highest number of trains versus pedestrian fatalities, and don't want that number."

The Santa Barbara Sheriff's department says:

During “Operation Clear Track,” law enforcement representatives report to high-incident railroad grade crossings in the City of Goleta. Once onsite, law enforcement officials share safety tips and enforce crossing and trespassing laws as well as write citations and warnings to violators.” The Goleta Police Department is committed to making sure our community members stay safe in and around our railroads.” said Chief of Police Services, Lieutenant Rich Brittingham. “We will be at or near the railroad crossing on Kellogg Ave and Depot Rd.”

In the U.S., every three hours a vehicle or person is struck by a train,” said Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Executive Director Rachel Maleh. “Together we can help stop track tragedies.”

Rivas has seen drivers and pedestrians taking risks at railroad crossings with dangerous consequences. "People have a tendency when they don't see the train and the gate goes down they think they can sneak around  or walk across the tracks and  then  tragedy strikes because the train comes up upon a lot faster than they anticipated."

He has seen if first hand while working near the tracks "where all of a sudden the train will come by and there's no horn and it is just on you. It is just that fast."

 It's not just those walking or driving, but also those who are living along the tracks
Rivas says, "especially now with a lot of the homeless encampments, you gotta  to be careful with people who might be struck by a train or cause a fire as a result. We want to make sure those areas are clear. "

He says the crossings are very well maintained but there are areas, along beach access points where many people take their own paths that includes going over the rails.

"I just want people to be careful and even though they don't see the train or hear the train but when they hear the train,  it's coming!   I just ask people to be extra careful and   wait until the train comes by before they do their safe crossing. "

For more information about Rail Safety Week, Operation Clear Track, and other rail-safety initiatives and tips, go to: www.oli.org.   

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department provides law enforcement services for the City of Goleta.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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