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Photographers, Railroad Tracks and Dangers

Are you a photographer? Or have you just scheduled your family for a photo shoot?

This valuable information may save your life or the life of someone you love.

Many of you know that I am a survivor of a van/train collision and an advocate of railroad-crossing safety. For over nine years, I instructed children, teen drivers and adults in railroad-crossing safety and trespassing dangers.

I’ve noticed a recent trend with photographers includes posing their clients on railroad tracks in order to create an artistic photograph where the tracks fade into the distance.

There are over 451 deaths nationwide each year from people playing on train tracks. “About every three hours a person, or vehicle is hit by a train” (OLI, 2012). Lost lives are too high of a price to pay for creative photography.

If you haven’t seen any of these photographs, do a search on Google. First click “Images,” and then insert the key words “railroad tracks kids photography.” Keep scrolling down the pages and you’ll see what I mean. There you’ll find married couples, families, toddlers and babies posing on the tracks. My heart literally aches to see these images.

Michigan and Rhode Island impose up to $1000 fines and imprisonment for pedestrians who trespass on railroad tracks. Several other states including Kentucky, Maine and New Jersey, also have trespassing laws (FRA, 2012). I recently sent a letter to my state senator and asked him to write a bill that prohibits pedestrians from trespassing on tracks. I ask that you do the same in your state.

Trains are silent. They don’t make loud noises and rattle the tracks anymore like they did in old TV westerns. They also take over a mile to stop. When people are playing on the tracks, inevitably they will get hit.

In addition, children whose parents allow them to be photographed on the tracks are sending a dangerous message. Since mommy and daddy posed with the kids on the tracks in a photograph that is proudly displayed on the family room wall, this constant reminder may be misconstrued as permission to play on the tracks anytime. Even if photographers use tracks that are abandoned or no longer in use, children cannot discern the difference. Children should be taught to stay away from the tracks at all times and to never sit, stand or pose on them.

Photographers, I implore you, please keep your clients off the tracks.

Clients if you are asked to pose on the tracks by yourself, as a couple, or with your children, please adamantly refuse; and then, educate your photographer on the dangers of these insidious acts.

A motto I shared, as I instructed children, teens, and adults, in my railroad-crossing safety classes was this: “Stay Off, Stay Away, Stay Alive” (OLI, 2012).

Blog first posted April 2012


(OLI, 2012) Operation Lifesaver, Inc  – Please visit OLIs website for more information on how to stay safe on the tracks.

(FRA, 2012) Railroad crossing trespassing laws from the U.S. Department of Transportation—Federal Railroad Administration. Compilation of State Laws and Regulations Affecting Highway-Rail Grade Crossings. 5th Edition. Retrieved from:

8 Responses to Photographers, Railroad Tracks and Dangers
  1. Pamela
    April 23, 2012 | 6:24 am

    Great blog Sherry. I would have never given that a second thought. But now, I will never look at those photos the same way. I’m so sharing this. As I started to read it, I initially thought, well, maybe it’s okay if they are using abandoned tracks that they KNOW are not used by the railroad anymore…but then when I read what you wrote about kids thinking it’s okay to play on the tracks because they posed for pics on the tracks…I changed my thinking a bit… You are so right…best to stay off of them completely. I live less than 100 feet from a very busy stretch of track, I don’t even like to see people walk across them to get to the other side.

    • Sherry M. Jones
      April 24, 2012 | 8:56 am

      Thanks, Pamela. I, too, cringe to see people walking across the tracks. You are right that most people who live by tracks really don’t think about their dangers, as their minds might tend to tune out the train whistles that they’ve heard a hundred times. That’s why I felt it was so important to share these statistics. I want people to be aware and safe at all crossings and to stay off the tracks completely.

  2. Holly
    April 25, 2012 | 6:25 am

    Wow! This is really good information Sherry…..something I would never have thought of! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Sherry M. Jones
      April 26, 2012 | 8:50 am

      Thanks, Holly. I appreciate your reply and encouraging words.

  3. Kelly S.
    May 3, 2012 | 6:21 am

    Insightful post. Years ago kids were playing on the tracks in a rural town nearby, and one was hit. Such a tragedy. Thanks for posting this.

    • Sherry M. Jones
      May 4, 2012 | 8:59 am

      Thanks, Kelly. Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about the tragedy in a nearby town. My heart aches to hear such stories.

  4. Brian
    June 5, 2012 | 5:36 pm

    As an operations manager for a Class I railroad and as someone who must go out and investigate these types of accidents, I must thank you for communicating this message. I’ve often said that the attitudes of children as they relate to playing on railroad tracks is directly related to the attitudes of parents in keeping them away from this danger. Precisely as you stated, when it’s okay to hang a picture in the den of a child on the tracks, the message to the child is, “it’s okay.”

    • Sherry M. Jones
      June 5, 2012 | 7:04 pm

      I appreciate your confirmation that railroad-crossing safety education must start in the home. You know first hand and understand the urgency of this message, as an investigator to various tragedies that occur on the tracks. I cannot begin to imagine the tragedies you must see on a weekly basis. Thank you for your dedication and investigative services.

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