What is Operation Lifesaver:
The mother company “Operation Lifesaver” started in Idaho (U.S.A) in 1972 when the national average of collisions at highway-rail grade crossings exceeded 12,000 annually. A six-week public awareness campaign called “Operation Lifesaver” was sponsored by the office of Governor Cecil Andrus, the Idaho Peace Officers and Union Pacific railroad as a one-time, one-state initiative.
During the campaign’s first year, Idaho’s crossing-related fatalities dropped by 43 percent. The next year, the Operation Lifesaver campaign spread to Nebraska, where their collision rate was reduced by 26 percent. Kansas and Georgia experienced similar success the following year.
Between 1978 and 1986, while Operation Lifesaver operated under the auspices of the National Safety Council (NSC), all 49 congressional states started independent Operation Lifesaver programs.
In 1986, the national program was released from NSC and incorporated as a national, non-profit educational organisation. The founding sponsors of Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), the Railway Progress Institute, Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) continue to serve on OLI´s 11 members’ board.
Operation Lifesaver (OL) exists also in Canada, Mexico and Argentina.
The first OL branch in Europe was created in Estonia in 2004. OL exists also now in Finland since 2006.
"Operation Lifesaver" in Europe
In autumn 2003 Herb Payne, Chairman of the Management Board – Managing Director of AS Eesti Raudtee (also Member of UIC) recommended Tamo Vahemets to get acquainted with railway safety project “Operation Lifesaver” in the US.
In July 2004 Tamo Vahemets represented Estonia in an international “Operation Lifesaver” symposium held in San Antonio, Texas. During the symposium Tamo Vahemets was granted the authority for establishing a branch of “Operation Lifesaver” in Estonia.
On November 19, 2004 AS Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway Ltd), Tamo Vahemets and Urve Miidla the founded non-profit organisation “Operation Lifesaver Estonia” (OLE) following the principles accepted by Operation Lifesaver Inc.
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.
To accomplish its mission, Operation Lifesaver just like the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF) of which it is a member, promotes 3 Es:
- Education: Operation Lifesaver strives to increase public awareness about the dangers around the rails. The program seeks to educate both drivers and pedestrians to make safe decisions at crossings and around railway lines.
- Enforcement: Operation Lifesaver promotes active enforcement of traffic laws relating to crossing signs and signals and private property laws related to trespassing.
- Engineering: Operation Lifesaver encourages continued engineering research and innovation to improve the safety of level crossings.
Examples of OLE campaigns in Estonia are shown on the right column.
Thanks to their educational campaign in Estonia, Operation Lifesaver Estonia (OLE) have achieved a 50% reduction in the number of persons losing their life on rails in Estonia.
Please find hereafter an abstract of S. Fletcher’s publication in Operation Lifesaver Estonia’s (OLE) annual report 2009 describing the involvement of OLE in the 2009 European Level Crossing Awareness Day campaign. For the whole article please visit the OLE website or click on this hyperlink www.operationlifesaver.eu/ee/en/?id=15322
"…. ELCAD campaign in 2009 effectively gained momentum through the linking together of a number of national events either ongoing ones like OLE in Estonia or “Don’t Run the Risk" in the UK, or those specifically set up for the day like the one organised in Poland. The events were very diverse and many organisers around the 27 countries who took part were to be seen on the day itself handing out leaflets at level crossings and stations as well as organising awareness games with local children or taking part in the reconstruction of a crash between a car and a train etc.
Linking all of these together on the same date was helped by having a common message: Stop Accidents! Europe for safer level crossings.
The collaborative effort involved major railway undertakings, the road sector, infrastructure managers, national and European politicians, government agencies from many Member States, the European Commission, law enforcement authorities, non profitable organisations dealing with education such as Operation Lifesaver Estonia: www.operationlifesaver.eu/ee/en, Operation Lifesaver Argentina www.operacionsalvavidas.com.ar or even the mother of the OL family from the USA and Canada: www.oli.org in the U.S.A ; www.operationlifesaver.ca in Canada. This would not have worked without the involvement of the media and there were many radio and TV slots publicising the campaign – there was even a radio slot in Finland that won an innovation award.
We are of course especially delighted that the Operation Lifesaver (U.S.A. and Canada) teams will join the ILCAD (International Level Crossing Awareness Day) 2010 event as will Operation Lifesaver Estonia and Argentina. Their support is especially welcome as they have vast experience in educational campaigns and their advice and ideas are able to help shape the ILCAD campaign 2010 into something really powerful"
Save the date for ILCAD (International Level Crossing Awareness Day): 22nd June 2010.
Remember the international message: “Act safely at level crossings”
An article will be published on this international event in the near future.