Welcome to the Illinois Operation Lifesaver web site. This site contains information covering a broad range of areas dealing with railroad safety, education and outreach. By staying out of the path of oncoming trains, we will all live longer and more productive lives. Each year in Illinois, approximately 80 people die on and around railroad tracks and property. There are few incidents that occur that affect a community and its residents like someone killed by a train. Families and friends of those people killed, train crews, railroad employees, first responders are all greatly impacted by such needless events.

Look through the site for information that can help us save lives in Illinois. Our goal is to reduce collisions, injuries, and deaths at highway railroad grade crossings and railroad rights- of -way. The Illinois Operation Lifesaver program began in 1976. That year, we had over 800 railroad incidents at public grade crossings and 96 people were killed, in 2012 collision totals were down to 89 and 25 people lost their lives. We are making a difference in Illinois.

Operation Lifesaver is an active, continuing public education program designed to reduce the number of crashes, deaths and injuries at highway-rail intersections. It is sponsored cooperatively by federal, state and local government agencies, civic and business organizations, the nation's railroads and other groups interested in highway safety.

To meet its lifesaving goals, Operation Lifesaver is designed to increase public awareness of highway-rail grade crossing hazards and improve driver and pedestrian behavior at these intersections. In conjunction with its educational phases, Operation Lifesaver emphasizes engineering improvements, including the installation and upgrading of grade crossing warning signals and signs, and the enforcement of existing traffic laws.

The three areas of concentration are:

  1. Education - Operation Lifesaver's success lies in educating people of all ages to the hazards at grade crossings. Methods used to reach the public include civic presentations, early elementary and driver education curriculum activities, school bus driver training, industrial safety, law enforcement training, and media coverage.
  2. Enforcement - If existing laws governing motorist and pedestrian rights and responsibilities at highway-rail grade crossings are not enforced, they will be ignored and broken. State and local law enforcement agencies should be urged to "crack down" on motorists and pedestrians who disregard these laws and jeopardize their lives and the lives of others.
  3. Engineering - Grade crossings must be kept as physically and operationally safe as possible, with improvements made where needed. The public should be educated about federal, state and railroad programs that plan, install and maintain grade crossings.

What Most Americans Do Not Know About Vehicle-Train Crashes

333 - Number in millions of vehicles that cross railroad tracks every day.
270 - Number of people killed in 2012 at highway-rail grade crossing collisions.
442 - Number of people killed in 2012 trespassing on railroad property.
18 - Number of football fields it takes a freight train, traveling at 55mph, to stop.
50 - Percentage of vehicle/train collisions that occur at crossings with active warning devices (lights, gates, bells).
212,600 - Approximate number of at-grade highway-rail crossings in the U.S.
40 - Times you are more likely to die in a crash with a train than you are to die in an automobile crash.
3 - Average time, in hours, between each incident where a vehicle or pedestrian is struck by a train.

Worried about plane crashes?

Did you know that more people die in highway-rail grade crossing crashes in the U.S. each year than in commercial and general aviation crashes combined?

Feel safe in your surroundings?

The majority of highway-rail crashes occur within 25 miles of your own home.

Think railroads are public areas? (Stay Off, Stay Away, Stay Alive)

Railroad tracks, yards, and trains and other equipment are private property. Walking or playing on them is illegal and is subject to arrest and fines. Currently in Illinois that fine for a first offense can be as high as $150.00 ( see ILCS 5/18-7503)!

Not concerned about trains unless they are moving fast?

The majority of highway-rail crashes occur when the train is traveling less than 30mph.

Illinois Railroad Crash

Statistics - Information in this section is designed to provide the media with a quick reference to statistical facts and how Illinois compares in national statistics.

The Basics - Highway-rail crash statistics for 2012 indicate that Illinois had 89 crashes at public crossings. Twenty five people were killed and another 34 seriously injured. Illinois has over 7,300 miles of track with 7,780 public crossings and 4,536 private crossings. Nationally this puts us second in both categories.

Highway-Rail Terminology

  • Highway/Rail Grade Crossing - The general area where a roadway intersects a railway.
  • Public Grade Crossing - A highway/rail grade crossing where the roadway is under the jurisdiction and maintained by a public entity, perhaps a farmer's property or access to a private industry.
  • Private Grade Crossing - At-grade crossings where the highway is privately owned and is intended for use by the owner or by the owner's licensees and invitees. It is not intended for public use and is not maintained by a public highway authority.
  • Active Highway-Rail Crossing Devices - Traffic control devices that give positive notice to highway users of the approach or presence of a train. Active devices include flashing light signals, automatic gates, and other similar devices activated by a train passing over a detection circuit or, in some instances, by manually operated devices.
  • Passive Warning Devices - Non-electric traffic control devices, including signs, markings and other devices located at or in advance of a crossing to indicate the presence of a crossing. The purpose is to alert highway users to prepare for and take appropriate evasive action. Passive warning devices include:
  • Cross Bucks - White reflecting X-shaped signs with "RAILROAD CROSSING" in black lettering, located alongside the roadway at railroad tracks. Cross bucks should be considered to be the same as a yield sign. This is a regulatory sign in Illinois.
  • Advance Warning Sign - A round yellow sign with "R X R." It is located alongside the highway in advance of the crossing and is designed to notify a motorist of a highway/rail crossing ahead. This is an advisory sign.

Top Ten States for Highway- Rail Crashes at crossings in 2012 (Public and Private Crossing Totals)

Texas 227
California 121
Illinois 108
Indiana 106
Georgia 86
Alabama 85
Louisiana 79
Ohio 73
Tennessee 66
Pennsylvania 60
Collision Statistics 1984 to 2004

Risk of Collision

The six-county Chicago area region accounts for approximately 73 percent (73%) of the State's risk of experiencing a train-vehicle collision when risk is presented as the product of the number of daily trains and annual average daily highway traffic (AADT).Trespassing, defined by the Federal Railroad Administration as "any person who is on that part of railroad property used in railroad operation and whose presence is prohibited, forbidden, or unlawful," has become one of the leading causes of railroad related fatalities in Illinois. The only authorized place a person may be on railroad property in Illinois is at a commuter rail station or at a public highway crossing.


California 74
Texas 32
Pennsylvania 28
Florida 27
New York 24
Illinois 19
New Jersey 17
North Carolina 16
Georgia 14
Massachusetts 13

In 2012, 19 people in Illinois were killed and another 25 injured being on or along railroad tracks or railroad rights of way as trespassers.

Trespassing Statistics


You can Make a Difference. Help us end tragedy on the rails: Get involved. Become an Illinois Operation Lifesaver volunteer! Each year more than 300,000 people in Illinois -- including school children, drivers education students, school bus operators, professional truck drivers, law enforcement, emergency responders, state fair attendees and members of civic organizations -- receive Operation Lifesaver, (OL), safety messages from an OL volunteer presenter or associate.

If you enjoy public speaking and would like to tell people about safety around the rails, consider becoming an Operation Lifesaver Presenter. To become a nationally recognized Operation Lifesaver presenter, you will soon be able to take the first step online. Visit our national website at www.oli.org for information.

The course is free to the public. Once you have passed the course, you will give a presentation to be monitored by Operation Lifesaver mentors. After receiving an acceptable rating on this presentation, you will be become a volunteer, and asked to give a minimum of four presentations each calendar year of your first monitored presentation.

OL volunteers are people from all walks of life: locomotive engineers and other train crew members, teachers, retirees, health professionals, police officers, truck drivers, students and maybe even you! If you want to be part of the solution here in Illinois and helps us make a difference. Contact your state coordinator for more information on becoming an Operation Lifesaver volunteer.

A Knock On The Door

Request a Presentation:

Chip Pew
State Coordinator
Illinois Operation Lifesaver
Illinois Commerce Commission
580 Vine Avenue
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
Office: (312) 636-3034

Educational Material

Operation Lifesaver has a wide variety of educational materials for all ages. To order Materials, contact: Elite PromotionsExternal Link 1-800-720-8516, or Morton SuggestionExternal Link 1-800-323-0423.