Operation Lifesaver Urges Professional Photographers to Stay Safe, Stay Away from Train Tracks

Posted on Sep 19, 2015

photographerAs the fall season approaches and high school seniors start thinking about getting their senior photos taken, Operation Lifesaver (www.oli.org), along with Texas Operation Lifesaver, is urging professional photographers to refrain from taking photos of high school seniors and other subjects on train tracks or trestles.

Last year, more than 800 people were injured or killed while trespassing on railroad property in the U.S., according to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics.

“We know that photographers seek creative portrait settings; however, using train tracks as a backdrop for photos is not only dangerous, it is illegal trespassing,” said Operation Lifesaver, Inc. President and CEO Joyce Rose. “This spring, as part of our mission to reduce deaths and injuries around trains, we are asking professional and amateur photographers to set the right example by staying away from train tracks.” Rose noted that about every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train.

A teacher who taught art and photography was struck and killed by a train while taking photos on the tracks late in 2012. In response to tragic and preventable incidents like this, Operation Lifesaver has worked with Professional Photographers of America on rail safety education outreach to the professional photographer community.

“Trackside settings have become popular for senior, wedding, and family portraits. But photographers need to know the laws and the safety ramifications of staging a photo shoot near train tracks,” said David Trust, chief executive officer of Professional Photographers of America (PPA). “PPA applauds Operation Lifesaver programs that educate photographers about the danger to themselves and their clients of working near tracks.”

Operation Lifesaver has six “must-know” tips for professional photographers considering a photo shoot near the tracks:

1. Trains can’t stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the tracks.

2. An optical illusion makes it hard to determine a train’s distance from you – and its speed.

3. The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet.

4. Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and rights-of-way are private property.

5. No tracks should be assumed to be abandoned or inactive.

6. People in your community mimic your behavior.

Tom Sergent, a professional photographer from the Waco, TX area, says “Most amateur photographers are not aware that shooting on train tracks is illegal. PPA is trying to get the word out, and the majority of your professional photographers no longer do photo shoots on train tracks. We applaud Operation Lifesaver’s educational efforts to keep photographers and their clients safe.”