When Jeff Smith, a Norfolk Southern engineer, talks to people about the dangers of trying to beat a train across railroad tracks, they should listen.
He was driving a train when it hit a car that tried to race across the tracks in front of him. It’s a bad memory he really does not want to talk about.
“It’s just something you have to live with,” Smith said. “There’s nothing we can do but blow the horn, ring the bell and hope for the best.”
Perhaps that is why Smith volunteers with Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit railroad safety program.
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This morning, Smith and a half dozen other Norfolk Southern volunteers stood at the intersection of Greene and Laurens streets near Five Points to hand out pamphlets and talk to people around safety. They were joined by Columbia Police Department officers.
Railroad crews also stopped people this morning on Beverly Drive in West Columbia.
Cars do not stand a chance against a moving train, which mostly likely won’t be able to stop in time to avoid a collision. The weight ratio is 4,000-to-1 between a train engine and an automobile, Smith said.
“It’s like a car running over a pop can,” he said.
The Operation Lifesaver volunteers also warned pedestrians about trying to climb between the cars of a stopped train.
A person standing between cars could be killed or lose a limb, Smith said.
“There’s no proper time to cross a train. When a train stops, you don’t know when that train is going to move.”