Metra starts effort to keep kids safe near train tracks

CHICAGO: Metra - the government agency that oversees commuter trains in the Chicago area - has launched a major public information campaign to discuss child safety around train tracks.

CHICAGO: Metra - the government agency that oversees commuter trains in the Chicago area - has launched a major public information campaign to discuss child safety around train tracks.

The effort, which Metra calls its most aggressive in 20 years, was prompted by the recent deaths of three children hit by Metra trains in a 23-day period. Metra is sending out more than 3,000 videos about safety to Chicago area school districts, said Audrey Renteria, a media relations specialist with Metra. It's asking schools to hold assemblies for students to view the video, called "Operation Lifesaver," and for safety to be discussed at the assemblies. "Our goal is to prevent another tragedy," Renteria said. Area police departments also are being asked to be alert for children near railroads tracks and to notify parents when children are found in such places. "We need parents to reinforce the message" about safety, she said. Metra is playing public service announcements on trains, and is preparing PSAs for distribution to area TV and radio stations as part of the campaign. The campaign also includes ads in Chicago-area newspapers bearing the headline: "Help Us Keep Our Children Safe." No specific end date has been set for the Metra effort. "Our overall goal is to send out the message about safety around railroad tracks, and we will continue this program as necessary," Renteria explained. Metra, whose official name is the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, either operates or contracts out operation of trains on a 546-mile system of lines in a six-county area around Chicago. The 12 commuter lines involved reach into neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin. The most recent death involved a 13-year-old girl who was hit while crossing train tracks as a shortcut to school on March 17. A 10-year-old boy was killed by a train on February 23, and a 14-year-old girl was killed by another Metra train on March 11. Eight people have been killed by Metra trains this year, but three of those were ruled suicides.

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