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Serena Schmit, Bismarck, Published September 29 2012

Letter: Nothing romantic about riding rails

The Sept. 20 Forum website and print edition included a photo and article about a young man with a troubled past who admits to illegally hitching rides on trains since age 10. The photo of him sitting in the middle of the tracks and the article depict him as a romantic figure, illustrating an issue that we at North Dakota Operation Lifesaver, the nonprofit rail safety education group, address all too frequently.

Romanticizing railroad tracks has deadly consequences – more than 10,000 Americans have been injured or killed on or near the tracks since 2000.

Did you know that the number of pedestrians killed in rail trespassing incidents each year in the U.S. is higher than the number killed in vehicle-train collisions at crossings? Your photo and story could encourage other young people to trespass on tracks, with disastrous results.

At Operation Lifesaver, (www.oli.org) our mission is to help prevent needless rail-related tragedies, because about every three hours in the U.S. a person or vehicle is hit by a train.

Together, we can make a difference – and save lives. Please help us by refraining from using unsafe and irresponsible images like these.

Schmit is state coordinator, North Dakota Operation Lifesaver.