GROVETOWN -- While a move by the CSX railroad company to increase the speed of trains coming through Grovetown may be unpopular with residents, railroad officials say the increase is actually safer.
Earlier this month, CSX Transportation put Grovetown officials on notice -- the trains will be coming through town faster.
"We got a letter from CSX railroad, (saying) they're moving it up from 40 mph to 50 mph and we're just going to have to sit by and watch them come through," said Mayor Dennis Trudeau.
The increase follows the closure of one of the city's railroad crossings, leaving only two -- on Robinson Avenue and Katherine Street.
Grovetown officials see the higher speeds as a nuisance and potentially hazardous to driver, Mr. Trudeau said. "Ten miles might make a difference," he said.
But, CSX officials say just the opposite is true.
"Statistics show that there are fewer crossing collisions when the train is traveling at a higher rate of speed," said Jane Covington, spokeswoman for the company.
In fact the majority of collisions between cars and trains occur when the train is traveling less than 30 mph, she said.
"We are constantly examining our system for places that we can increase or decrease the speed in order to make it more consistent for longer stretches," Ms. Covington said."When a train slows down and speeds up it kind of acts like a slinky. It's safer for trains to remain at a constant rate of speed."
Before the trains actually begin to observe to new speed limit, a representative from Operation Lifesaver -- a national public education program dedicated to reducing crossing crashes -- must first come to Grovetown to offer safety classes to residents, she said.
According to Operation Lifesaver materials, 448 people were killed and 1,458 were injured in crossing collisions last year. In Georgia, 12 died and 53 were injured in a total of 138 crashes.
Still crash numbers are down from when Operation Lifesaver began its education efforts in 1972. In the past decade, the number of crossing crashes has been reduce by 41 percent.
While it may herald faster trains in town, the organization's safety education programs will be welcomed by city officials.
"It would be a good thing for the police department and fireman, and a good thing for the citizens to get an idea how dangerous it is trying to beat these trains to the crossings," Mr. Trudeau said. "We'll take advantage of it, we sure will."
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