As drivers and pedestrians, most of us are well aware of the common dangers we face from cars and trucks on the road. Auto accidents are a very common occurrence, which is why so many safety campaigns are focused on improving driver behavior in order to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities.

These are all good and necessary efforts, but we should not forget about dangers that, while less common, can be just as deadly. Specifically, it is important to turn our attention to rail safety – particularly at intersections where trains and motor vehicles cross paths.

This week is Rail Safety Week, and leading the educational campaign in our state is a group called North Carolina Operation Lifesaver. The nonprofit organization will be releasing public service announcements to educate and warn about the hazards that can occur at railroad crossings for both cars and pedestrians.

Statistics show that train-car and train-pedestrian accidents are still a significant problem in North Carolina and nationwide. Each year, about 30 North Carolinians are seriously injured or killed crossing train tracks in their vehicles or trespassing on train tracks. Across North America, that number rises to 2,100 injuries and fatalities annually.

The overall message of this year’s safety week can be summed up by its theme: “See Tracks? Think Train!” In other words, every time you see train tracks, you should assume that a train could be coming through very soon and take precautions accordingly.

One of the reasons that train-vehicle collisions are still a problem is that many railroad crossings are infrequently used by trains. As such, when there are not stop arms and signal boxes, drivers begin to assume that they can cross at any time without looking and listening for trains.

If you live, walk or drive near train tracks, please make safe choices by always assuming that a train could be coming. It takes considerable time and distance for trains to come to a stop, so it is up to us to stay out of the way to protect our own safety.