Saturday, 14 January 2012

Train your kids about rail safety



We all teach our kids about road safety.  Even now it seems the Green Cross Code is embedded into our psyche and we pass these essential personal safety skills on to our children.

But how many of us teach our children about the dangers on the railway?  With the demise of the TV public information films and headteachers facing ever more pressure to meet targets and deliver curriculum, are our children getting taught these messages?  A recent survey showed that two thirds of parents hadn't discussed rail safety with their children.

This week, there was a tragic fatality on my rail line.  It's opened up some old memories.  Ones that I'd prefer to forget.  I've seen things that I can't unsee, heard stories that I wish weren't true.

I worked for over 10 years on the railway, joining at the tail end of what was British Rail.  The things I learnt in my training are ingrained.  But how many members of the general public know these facts?

Did you know for instance, that the overhead power cables can carry over 25,000 volts of electricity?  Did you know that this silent and invisible killer can jump and arc by up to 9ft?  Did you know that the electricity (both overhead and on third rails) is ALWAYS on - not just when a train passes through as some people alarmingly think.

I'll never forget the time I saw a (very tall) man walking along a platform.  He had his young daughter up on his shoulders.  In her hand she was holding the ribbon to a foil, helium filled balloon.  He thought I was totally crazy when I asked him to put his child down.  Until I explained.

Electricity warning sign
Photo credit: www.trackoff.org

Or the time I was waiting on a platform and saw a group of boys playing dares with each other.  They were early teens, and were egging each other on to see who could stand closest to the edge of the platform for the longest while a train came in.  They were stood, toes on the edge, chests puffed out as a train pulled in, inches from them.  I got a load of verbal and a karate style kick in the back as thanks for giving them a rollicking.  I got my own back though.  I took the CCTV footage of them into their headmaster and it was shown to the entire school assembly.  They were also shown some rather graphic photos by the British Transport Police.  Weren't so cocky after that.

One of my many roles on the railway was in HR.  Part of that role included delivering training and induction courses to new entrants.  During the safety session we'd show CCTV of a student on a platform.  She leaves her suitcase by the edge of the platform and wonders off to check the departure board.  In that moment a high speed train passes through, the turbulence whisks the suitcase off with the train and her entire year's work is spread for miles.  Paper blowing in the wind.  If the video elicited giggles, we'd simply say: imagine if that wasn't a suitcase, but a buggy with a child in it.  That normally turned them green.

You see, the yellow lines are there for a reason.  Trains can travel at 125mph.  The turbulence they can cause is powerful and you can be pulled under with the slipstream if you are standing too close.


© Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Up to 60 people are killed each year in this country crossing the tracks.  Of course, unlike a car, a train can't swerve out of your way.  Nor can it stop quickly - it can take up to a mile and a half to come to a complete standstill.

OK, OK, I know it's a fine line between teaching your kids to be safe and sensible and scaring the hell out of them.  For this reason, I'm not the person to do it!

There is a wealth of information and resources available to parents and teachers.  Schools can arrange safety talks and visits from the British Transport Police.  The information is tailored and age appropriate, so please, please take a look at some of these useful links and spend some time talking to your children about how to enjoy the rail network and stay safe.  Why not encourage your nursery or school to cover it too.

Please.

http://www.trackoff.org/Dangers.aspx

http://www.trackoff.org/ResourceList.aspx

http://www.teachingzone.org/transport/index.htm

http://www.teachingzone.org/railway/index.htm

http://www.networkrail.co.uk/Safety_myths_mean_parents_put_children_at_risk.aspx

http://www.btp.police.uk/

The Fairy and the Frog

34 comments:

  1. It's something I know little about Liz...I will read and pass on for sure. Thank you xx

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    1. Thanks lovely. It is important, trains and stations are such an attraction for young kids, but they need to understand the dangers. x

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  2. This is a good point, I remember having to sit and watch videos of this sort when I was a kid, general safety, railway safety and why it's not a good idea to play on building sites, amongst other things.

    They should bring this back into schools.

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  3. Hi Techno-mole. Yep, remember all those 'Charlie says' and stranger danger ads? I distinctly remember the one about overhead power cables too - a kite and a fishing rod!

    x

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  4. Your so right, I feel bad now, I go on about roads all the time and don't think I have mentioned danger of train tracks etc once! Thanks for making me realise :)

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    1. I guess if you don't travel regularly then it's not in the forefront of your mind (unlike me who is kinda obsessing about it at the moment!). But potentially railways can be MUCH more dangerous than roads. x

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  5. Some good points there - I always talk to H about keeping away from the edge, but the overhead cables is one that I haven't covered. Need to do a bit more about safety as getting more independent all the time.

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  6. Thanks Erica. Overhead lines seem so far out of reach don't they? But if you're on a bridge etc and taking into account the arcing, they're much closer than you think :0( x

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  7. Funnily enough, my youngest son has just come home with a workbook produced by SNCF (French railways). Children in primary school get taught about railway dangers, how to read a tickets, how to behave on the platform, the different jobs in a station and how to behave in a train.

    There's even a nationwide competition for schools (www.concoursScolaire-sncf.com) called Programme Voyageur et Citoyen. I suppose it's easier when there's a national railway as there was with BR.

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  8. Bonjour Sarah!

    Thanks for commenting. It sounds fantastic what SNCF are doing, and yes, you're right. In the old BR days all the safety info, pamphlets and videos were produced centrally so there was much more consistency in the educational side of things. x

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  9. Thanks so much for posting about this Lizzie. I absolutely HATE standing on the platform with the twins. It actually makes me feel physically sick with fear.

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    1. Hi Karen. Oh no! Travelling by train is huge fun. As long as you're sensible, you're perfectly safe (although I guess keeping two under control is a bit more difficult!).

      We travel by train loads and Ruby loves it, but she knows how to stay safe. That said - i never take my eyes off her or let go of her hand on a platform ;0)

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  10. I used to work for NR too. They are trying so hard to help educate people not take care on the rails and yet people still do silly things or take stupid risks.

    Great posts Liz. Thank you for writing it and helping raise awareness!

    Maggy

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    1. Hi Maggy, thanks for your comment.

      How funny - I never knew that about you!

      Some of the risks people tak are INSANE, I sometimes think shock tactics might be the best option - particularly for teenagers and adults x

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  11. That's very informative , thanks for sharing, we have a high speed line pass near our village and a few years ago there was a rail/road disaster there. Thankfully there is now a flyover instead of a crossing but I will be sharing these links with the school. Thanks
    X

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    1. Hi Helen. How sad about the level crossing accident. Good to here they've taken preventative measures now though. Thanks for sharing x

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  12. Awesome, informative post. Just shared it on Twitter x

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  13. We were just discussing this on the tube ride home - which of the rails is live - as the children were asking we thought the middle one but were not sure. Will share on twitter x

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    1. Hi NONHM!

      I've tweeted you a nerdy answer! Bet you didn't have me down as a train geek!

      x

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  14. You're right, it isn't a current topic these days is it. I shall make a point of mentioning this to my kids now. I've always thought it's so scary to see how close people stand to the edge on platforms. I didn't know that about the overhead cables though! 9 feet!!!! That is something I'll never forget. Really informative, helpful, intelligently written post. Thanks @Chaoskay

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    1. Hi Kay,

      Thanks very much. See, it wasn't all about parading about in orange HV vests :0) x

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  15. There's a station just up the road from me. My dd is 4 so never alone obviously always with me but still this has really brought to my attention to bring the subject of rail safety up with her, after all she may be 4 but has the grasped the understanding (basic anyway) of road safety so why should this be any different. Thanks Liz! x

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    1. Thanks CupcakeMumma.

      And the 'basics' o railway safety is even easier - there's no look both ways and listen before crossing, it's just DONT DO IT! :0)

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  16. Such a great post Liz, and thanks for sharing your knowledge. Will be making sure my big kids have a read of it. x

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    1. Thanks Molly x I'm sure yours are lovely but big kids are some of the worse culprits! x

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  17. On Saturday I took my 8 yo on the train to London, as we were getting on the 1st train of the day it occurred to me that I've never taught him about rail safety, as I have a car I drive everywhere and using public transport is a rarity to us, seeing this posted at a similar time to my own realisation has hit home and I have started to include railway safety into my family life now.

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    1. Thanks Mel, that's really good to hear. xx

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  18. (I am hopelessly behind with reading & commenting & things. Sorry!)

    One of the boys in my class at primary school's Dads used to be a safety person for BR, back in the late 80's, so we got far more than the usual schools level of Rail Safety Education, he'd come in and talk to us as well as showing some (pretty scary for a 9 y/o) videos, but it did the trick. When I moved to Leeds as a much older person, I was terrified to see the number of people that would jump from the platform & cross the rails rather than using a bridge literally 50 yards out of their way (round trip!).

    Then I fell and broke my ankle on a railway footbridge and developed a bit of a phobia of them, so I'm very very picky about which stations I use, and try to use the lifts where I can.

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  19. Why aren't the bevers, cubs, and scouts and also the guides, and the boys and girls brigade as a personal safety issue.

    Why is there not a badge for it, there are a lot of steam railways as well. Where I am sure the members would be willing to help with the training the next generation.

    My Son's Pack are considering how to do rail safety with the cub pack with which he is involved

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  20. I really like this to know the information of this post . to know the safety of kids is really great to me.Thanks for sharing this...
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  21. Thanks for linking up to Mondays Parenting Pin it Party- its great post with an important message.

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  22. we live right on the branch line and have to cross a level crossing every day. From such a young age we have always gone absolutely mental at Goblin if he stopped on the line. The line we cross is a really slow line. But there is another level crossing that we have to cross very seldom, but its the high speed intercity line. I never want my son to think its OK to dawdle on the track. I is one of my greatest fears that he will be one of those cocky teenagers playing chicken with the trains. Thanks so much for sharing such valuable info.

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  23. Ethan went to a school next to a railway and at assembly the BTP had to visit to say the cameras had caught 100 families crossing the tracks instead of using the road bridge in a month - unbelieveable!

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