CHAPEL HILL- In light of several recent automobile accidents involving trains, the state’s Department of Transportation is reminding local motorists and pedestrians to use caution around railroad tracks.

“We’ve had nine accidents recently,” says NCDOT Acting Rail Director Paul Worley. “Four were fatalities, one was a crossing crash, and the others were trespassers. We  have even had one derailment, so it was a very busy January.”

Across North Carolina and nationwide, automobile crashes involving railroad crossings have gone down—but Worley says transportation officials are becoming increasingly concerned about pedestrian trespassers.

“The number of trespasser fatalities continues to be very aggravating,” he says. “We’re trying to get some minds together as far as railroads, local law enforcement, and people out there everyday to see if there’s some other approach we can take regarding the trespasser issue.”

NCDOT officials are continuing to raise awareness through the department’s “Be Rail Safe” program, which has existed for more than two years to educate the public about railway safety. It’s a statewide initiative, but Worley says railroad safety might be especially applicable in parts of the Orange County area.

“In Carrboro and in your local area, you’ve got some situations where pedestrians and trains are very close together,” he says. “Stay off the tracks and stay out of the middle of the rails. You can walk anywhere, but that train can only run on those tracks.”

Above all, Worley says pedestrians need to remember that they can’t always hear an oncoming train.

“Trains will sneak up on you,” he says. “If you’re walking along the side of the track and you’re not near a crossing, you might not hear a train blow its horn. Trains also move faster than they look like they are moving.”

For more information on NCDOT’s “Be Rail Safe” program, click here.