At-grade crossings give trains and cars a place to meet up – and not in a good way. Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region One is actively promoting rail safety by giving presentations at area schools.
Saunders is a certified presenter for Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization that was formed in Idaho. After a successful short term public awareness campaign, state officials found that fatalities fell in Idaho by 43 percent. Other states adopted the program – Utah was third – and now the organization operates across the country. Saunders is one of several presenters from UDOT and other organizations, including the Utah Transit Authority.
Whether walking or driving, it’s imperative to maintain good situational awareness at train crossings. Young people can be prone to walk or drive distractedly by paying attention to friends, texting or listening to music. Saunders has spent hundreds of hours in drivers ed classes talking about why paying attention is so critical.
“You are forty percent more likely to die on a highway at a railroad crossing that at any other place,” says Saunders. He was recently honored as a Safety Partner of the Year by Operation Lifesaver for giving presentations. Last year, Saunders gave sixty-two presentations that reached nearly three thousand people, “most of them 16 year old kids getting ready to go out and drive.”
The videos for the presentations are shockingly straight forward and show images and video of actual crashes. Saunders believes that “it gets their attention” to see the real images. “They all think it’s going to be somebody else.”
Congratulations to Saunders and other award winners!
Persons in photo from left to right:
Kent Brown – Utah Central Railway, 2nd Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 24 presentations to 1,031 people
Vic Saunders – Utah Department of Transportation, 1st Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 62 presentations to 2,662 people
Kent Jorgenson – Utah Transit Authority, Safety Partner of the Year, gave 98 presentations to 3,255 people
Ahmad Jaber – Utah Department of Transportation, State Coordinator’s Award of Excellence, The state coordinator’s award of excellence is given to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated excellence in participating in or supporting the Operation Lifesaver program through activity, in-kind support, and/or financial contributions.
- Managed the Operation Lifesaver Utah program since 1976 (year started in Utah) to 1996.
- Provided a full-time person as the first state coordinator, who was Lillian Witkowski
- Provides personnel to give Operation Lifesaver presentations to the public
- Contributes financially to the Operation Lifesaver Utah program on an annual basis
Andrew Glad, Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 106 presentations to 3,408 people
Philip Lavorgna, 1st Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 78 presentations to 2,195 people
Walt Webster, 2nd Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 70 presentations to 2,363 people