To The Daily Sun,
It is with great concern that I write regarding two recent cover photos featuring trespassing on the active railroad in Laconia.
As the New Hampshire State Coordinator for Operation Lifesaver (http://oli.org/), a national organization whose mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property, I am frustrated with the undermining effect of your (and other media outlets') depiction that railroad tracks are open to any and all public use.
Earlier this year a photo of a gentleman fishing from atop the Winnipesaukee River railroad bridge (near Messer Street) appeared on your front page cover and so confident that he was doing no wrong he volunteered his name for the publication. Admittedly train traffic over this particular bridge is seasonal and very rare, but the fact is the entire line from Concord to Lincoln is in service, available and subject to train passage at any time.
The scene in the movie "Stand By Me" is one that happens all too often in real life — caught on a railroad bridge with no room to step aside to safety. This photo troubled me but not nearly to the level of the one, again prominently featured on the July 16 front page cover, titled "The simplest of things are often the foundation of the most fun." A more appropriate title would be "The misperception of harmless fun is often the foundation for tragedy." Unlike the bridge location above, the section of track on which the two young girls were photographed (may I presume by the mother of one of the young girls?) is part of the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad's daily operation, with as many as eight trains passing this very location.
Nationally, a person or vehicle is struck by a train every three hours. Our volunteers work hard to change people's behavior around railroad tracks and crossings with a particular focus on educating children. Romanticizing or condoning this trespass further perpetuates the hazard. How many children in the Lakes Region and beyond saw this photo and were compelled to mimic the balance beam "game"?
I find it ironic that every year, prior to commencement of operations and in the interest of public safety, the railroad posts a public service announcement in your publication alerting the public to the dangers of being on or around an active railroad only to have that advisory trivialized by published photographs of irresponsible acts and questionable subject matter.
For the safety of everyone, I would implore your paper and your readers, to recognize that railroads are not playgrounds, fishing access points, or shortcuts home. They are active and operational transportation corridors and as such we must all remain vigilant and keep in mind that safety is paramount.
New Hampshire Operation Lifesaver
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