If you think you can beat a train at a railroad crossing, think again.

It takes a train traveling at 50 mph approximately 18 football fields, or 5,280 feet, to stop. And by the time the train’s engineer sees something on the track, it’s too late.

Promotion of safety at railroad crossings in and around the Claremore area was the focus of Union Pacific’s participation in the Operation Lifesaver program Wednesday. Members of the Claremore Police Department, Talala Police Department and Rogers County Sheriff’s Office took part in the ride along the tracks that criss-cross Claremore and the greater county area to observe on-the-road driver behavior at railroad crossings.

A few violations at railroad crossings were observed during the ride along and will be addressed by county authorities.

According to UP Engineer Dana Marlow, between 22 and 24 trains pass through Claremore on a daily basis, making safety even more important.

“I can’t think of any land moving object that can go faster and do more damage than a train,” Marlow said.

Marlow, an engineer since 1995, said he has seen his share of train vs. vehicle collisions. He added when an engineer knows there’s going to be a collision, there’s not much he or she can do.

“The only tools I have to use is a horn and a brake,” he said. “Then I become a spectator who just sits back and watches because there’s nothing I can do about it.”

A mother and two of her children were killed at a railroad crossing in Rogers County in May. According to county officials, that crossing is next in line to receive safety signals.

Being involved in a train collision is something Marlow said crews never forget.

“It’s quite a blow,” he said. “I don’t care what the situation is, it’s a blow.”

In addition to addressing safety concerns — such as motorists driving around safety arms and trying to out-run trains — Claremore officers spoke with UP officials about traffic.

Officer Rick Jones asked if there was any alternative to stopping at major intersections in Claremore. According to Jones, often times a train will stop along Patti Page Boulevard, backing up traffic for miles.

The reason for the stop is to enter a sequence of numbers into a signal box in order for the train to proceed down the tracks. Marlow said entering this sequence can sometimes take up to 18 minutes, which in turn causes traffic to back up.

“When you do that, our department gets swamped with phone calls wanting to know what is going on,” Jones told Marlow. “We want to work with you guys to see if you can stop before the intersection, then call our department for an officer to come and give you a ride to the signal box. That way, traffic still flows.”

Marlow said UP would possibly consider that, seeing how it may take an engineer quite some time to reach the signal box on foot.

Keeping motorists safe at railroad crossings is still the focus of Oklahoma Operation Lifesaver.

“We take a lot of strides to keep the public as safe as we possibly can,” Marlow said. “Personally, I’d like to see lights flashing and arms at every crossing.”

Until that occurs, Operation Lifesaver offers these safety tips for motorists:

•Never drive around lowered gates. It is illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.

•Never race a train to the crossing. Even if you tie, you lose.

•Do not get trapped on the tracks. Only proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.

•If our vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately get everyone out and far away from the tracks. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

•At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching in either direction.

•Always expect a train. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.

•Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 mph can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.

•Do not be fooled by the optical illusion. The train you see is closer and faster moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.

•Do not walk, run, cycle or operate ATVs on railroad tracks or rights-of-way or through tunnels.

•Cross tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.

•Do not attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb, or your life. Operation Lifesaver is an international, non-profit education and awareness program dedicated to ending tragic collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights of way.