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About NC OL

What is North Carolina Operation Lifesaver?
North Carolina Operation Lifesaver (NCOL) is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks. NCOL promotes rail safety through public awareness campaigns and education initiatives, including free safety presentations by authorized volunteers. We speak to school groups, driver education classes, community audiences, professional drivers, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and others. Our program is co-sponsored by state and local government agencies, highway safety organizations, America's railroads, and other entities. Together we promote the three E's - education, enforcement and engineering - to keep people safe around the tracks and railway crossings within our communities. NCOL is part of a national nonprofit program known as Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI).

Why is Operation Lifesaver Needed?
Sadly, every year people in North Carolina are killed or injured at highway-rail crossings and at other locations along railroad tracks.

Many people are unaware that trains cannot stop quickly to avoid collisions; or, they take chances by ignoring warning signs and signals, going around lowered gates, stopping on tracks, or simply not paying attention when approaching highway-rail crossings. People also make the potentially fatal mistake of choosing railroad tracks as shortcuts or as places to walk or run for recreation. They may not realize that walking on train tracks is illegal, or understand how quickly and quietly a train can approach. Our safety tips can save your life – or the life of someone you love.

Become an Operation Lifesaver Authorized Volunteer
We are always looking for high-energy volunteers to help us spread our important message. Our volunteers are everywhere—schools, training programs, law enforcement events and safety fairs—with the common purpose of keeping our citizens safe. You can begin the process today by clicking here..

NC OL Events

September 26, 2018
CO Raleigh Donates 10% of YOUR bill to NC Operation Lifesaver!

On Wednesday, September 26, CO Raleigh, located at 101 N. Park at North Hills, in the AC Hotel, is donating 10% of your bill to North Carolina Operation Lifesaver. As part of National Rail Safety Week, CO is helping bring attention to NCOL's rail safety message.
CO is open from 11 am to 10 pm, and serves a delicious mix of sushi, noodles, dumplings, wings, and beverages. Print out this coupon and bring it with you to ensure your contribution!
Support Rail Safety AND NCOL at CO Raleigh on Wednesday, September 26!

June 9, 2018
Don't miss The Train Ride on Saturday, June 9, 2018!

The event begins at the Cary Train Station in downtown Cary. The 56-mile one-way ride takes you through rural NC to Burlington and ends at the historic Burlington Train Station.
Participants are encouraged to experience the full event by purchasing the optional return transportation back to Cary on the Amtrak train. With a dedicated car for all event participants, the train ride back to Cary will be almost as fun as the bike ride to Burlington!
For those looking for a 112-mile ride, turn-by-turn instructions will be provided for the bike ride back to the start. The round-trip cyclists may even beat the train back and be ahead of the crowd at the post-event party at Bond Brothers in downtown Cary.
This is a USA Cycling sanctioned event and benefits NC Operation Lifesaver.
Click here for more information and to register.

NC OL Safety Partners

NCOL is fortunate to have several sponsors and partners in Rail Safety.

Norfolk-Southern Railway
CSX Transportation
Railway Association of North Carolina
Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railroad
Laurinburg & Southern Railroad, Yadkin Valley Railroad, Kinston & Snow Hill Railroad

NC Dept. of Transportation Rail Division
NC State Highway Patrol
NC Dept. of Motor Vehicles
NC Governor's Highway Safety Program
Charlotte Area Transit System
Federal Railroad Administration
NCOL is proud to partner with BeRailSafe to inform and educate North Carolinians about Rail Safety.

Board Members:
Cayela Wimberly, Norfolk-Southern Railway - Vice-Chair
Paul Worley, Mott MacDonald - Treasurer
Jennifer Harrell, Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railroad
Allan Paul, NC DOT - Rail Division
Major Freddy Johnson, NC State Highway Patrol
Mark Ezzell, NC GHSP
Paul Dlouhy, NC DMV
Tony Long, Mint Hill Tool Rental
Jim Westmoreland, PE
The Honorable AB Swindell
Tricia Lusk Milam, Amtrak

NC OL Statistics

In 2017, 21 people lost their lives in railroad incidents in North Carolina; 15 while walking on railroad tracks, and 6 in highway-rail incidents (where a vehicle and train interact). A comparison of 2016 vs. 2017 statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration is shown below.

As of May 2018, nine people have lost their lives trespassing on tracks, and three have been killed in highway-rail incidents.

Especially for Photographers

Many people are unaware that ALL railroad tracks, whether active or "abandoned," are private property. Being on railroad tracks for any reason is illegal and, in North Carolina, is a Class 3 Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $300! (In other states, the penalities may be higher!)

Railroad tracks are often used as a backdrop for photography - for weddings, prom and senior pictures, for kids who really like trains. Not only is this practice illegal, it's also very dangerous. Modern trains are faster, longer, and quieter than ever before. In some locations, trains are required NOT to use their horns (No Train Horn zones) and can, literally, sneak up on you. Just look at this piece that appeared on NBC's Today Show last year: Dangerous New Trend


  • Trains can't stop quickly to avoid people and vehicles on the tracks.
  • It takes a mile or more to stop a freight train traveling 55 miles per hour. By the time the engineer sees you, it's probably too late to stop.
  • No tracks should be assumed to be abandoned and inactive. And even so, they're still private property and you are more than likely trespassing.
  • People in your community, or those who see your photos on Facebook, Instagram, or websites, mimic your behavior, which may put them in danger.

Take a moment to download NCOL's Photographer's Pledge. Complete the pledge and return it to NCOL via mail or email and we'll post your name and a link to your business on this page.

Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips to share with your friends and family. Many more are available at
Click here to request a presentation or more information.

  • Trains and cars don't mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
  • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That's 18 football fields!
  • Never drive around lowered gates — it's illegal and deadly. And don't stop on tracks - THAT'S illegal and deadly.
  • If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, get out and get away from the tracks, even if you do not see a train. Locate the Emergency Notification System sign and call the number provided, telling them about the stalled vehicle. If a train is approaching, run toward the train but away from the tracks at a 45 degree angle. If you run in the same direction a train is traveling, you could be injured by flying debris. For more information about the Emergency Notification System sign (the "Blue Sign") click here.

OLAV (Operation Lifesaver Authorized Volunteer) News and Photographs

Did you see this? On Wednesday, May 30, NCOL, NCDOT-BeRailSafe, and the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railroad staged the first ever (at least in NC, if not in the world) collision between a moving vehicle and a moving train. The event was coordinated by Crash Data Specialists, LLC.

The locomotive, driven by ACWR's Ed Thum, and including ACWR President Jennifer Harrell as a passenger, reached a speed of 22 miles per hour within 400 feet, from a dead stop. The vehicle, provided by the NC State Highway Patrol, was propelled forward by a pulley system attached to the rear of the locomotive. The collision resulted in "fatal" injuries to two of the three occupants of the vehicle. Click on one of the three links below for footage of the crash.

First Sgt. Kevin Shallington, NCOL State Director Margaret Cannell, and Trooper Randy Bridges
Instead of an annual luncheon, NCOL State Director Margaret Cannell will treat OLAVs to dinner in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilson. But OLAV and NC State Highway Patrol Trooper Charles "Randy" Bridges warranted a special lunch to recognize his efforts in 2017. Of the 192 presentations made in NC, Trooper Bridges made 92 of them! In his capacity as Traffic Safety Information Coordinator for Highway Patrol Troop C, District 9, Randy incorporates a rail safety message into all his presentations. He has reached more than 3000 people during 2017 alone!

Contact Us

North Carolina Operation Lifesaver Margaret Cannell, Executive Director

919-612-7674 (mobile)
919-831-3006 (office)

1500 Carson Street
Suite 108
Raleigh , NC    27608