Next Issue December 1st 2016

It's a nationwide problem that railroad companies are looking to solve, and it all starts with a camera.


It's a nationwide problem that railroad companies are looking to solve, and it all starts with a camera.

During the springtime, as seniors prepare for their graduation photo sessions, they can sometimes end up taking pictures on train tracks.

But Sally Tingle, the executive director of Texas Operation Lifesaver, says these photos ops could lead to a mugshot or even death.

"Sometimes photographers do not realize that being on railroad property is against the law," Tingle said, "If they really care about the people they serve, they should pay attention to that."

Mark Umstot, a Lubbock photographer for about 15 years, said while most professional photographers know this is illegal, some amateur photographers will risk taking railroad photos.

Umstot knows photographers who have ignored these laws, at their own cost.

"She got fined, not only for herself but for the engaged couple that she was shooting," he said. "It was about $5,000 worth of fines."

Tingle has heard much worse stories that she uses as testimonials in her rail safety education program. She says every three hours in the United States, a person is killed by a train.

"By the time the engineer sees someone on the track, it's too late," Tingle said. "That is the tragedy, the families that are affected by it."

Just last September, an NBC Washington station reported that a 16-year-old teenage boy was hit and killed by a train in Montgomery County, Maryland while posing for photos on the track with his girlfriend.

RELATED STORY: Teen Killed by Train Was Taking Photos on Tracks

His parents said it was too late before he noticed the train was coming.

"You don't always hear a train approaching," Tingle said.

Union Pacific has launched a photo safety campaign, using #TracksAreForTrains to promote safe senior photos.

"We don't have to lose young people this way," Tingle said.

Those who do not listen to these warnings can be charged with criminal trespassing in Texas, according to authorities, with fines ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars and even possible jail time.

Even if the photographer and subjects are not caught on the tracks, authorities said if the picture is posted online it can be used as evidence against them.

"Some engineers will never operate a train again as the result of being involved in one of those tragedies," Tingle said.

Umstot challenges photographers to create a picture a family will remember forever, and not take a risk they wish they could forget.

"You have no idea when the next train is coming," Umstot said.

Copyright 2016 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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