TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Once every three hours, a vehicle or pedestrian is involved in an accident with a train in the United States.

It’s an alarming statistic that hits home in Indiana. Last year, the state ranked 5th across the country in railroad collisions and deaths. 

This week, officials across the country are hoping to educate residents during Rail Safety Week. Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit organization that helped establish the campaign. 

Indiana Operation Lifesaver executive director Jessica Feder said they are making a big push to help make the state safer. 

“It’s an important initiative for us, because Indiana is ranked in the top five states every year for rail crossing collisions, we have a lot of highway traffic, and we also have a lot of rail traffic, and those two together often result in collisions a lot of times, so it’s important for us to get that message out there so that we can keep Hoosiers safe,” she said.

The issue has been seen in Terre Haute. Last Friday, a train crash between a train and a car also involved the death of 81-year-old Kenneth Hauptli.

Battalion chief at the Terre Haute Fire Department, Scott Dalton, said the issue is important because of the amount of damage trains can cause.

“There are no second chances,” he said. “Whenever we think of collisions that involve trains, that is a significant mechanism of injury. If we look at, not only the mortality rate but the morbidity, it is very high because of the amount of energy that’s involved.”

Dalton also said the problem extends past just motorists. 

A train striking a vehicle is only one aspect of what we’ve seen in Terre Haute,” he said. “Throughout the years, we’ve seen pedestrians struck.”

Feder said they are working to educate drivers and pedestrians alike on some of the dangers.

“We’re seeing more distracted driving, more people walking up and down the tracks with noise canceling headphones on, things like that, that we are really getting that message out there because people don’t realize that it’s so dangerous, and that it’s not worth the risk,” she said.

Feder added, since Operation Lifesaver was established in the state back in 1983, train collisions are down around 70%. She credited educational, enforcement and engineering efforts for the significant decrease.

Still, she believes work needs to be done to get the number even lower. 

“It’s a great week, and we’re happy to help Hoosiers stay safe around railroad tracks and crossing.”