The stories that Manfred Ludwig tells the pupils of a fifth grade are not good night stories. He tells of severed arms, of brain damage, of the dead. He shows photos of crushed bicycles, from a children’s coffin next to a railroad crossing. Most stories happened in the immediate vicinity of the students he speaks to today.
Manfred Ludwig is a prevention officer of the Federal Police in Selb, Bavaria. He does not want to scare the students of elementary and middle school in Kirchenlamitz near Bayreuth during his visit – he would like to warn them. Before playing in the track, before crossing a railroad crossing with the barrier lowered, in front of test of courage – and in front of selfies in the track bed.
“With such photos, some girls want to show their friendship on social media,” explains the police employee. The two connected and seemingly infinite rails felt some girls as a symbol of a close friendship. A life threatening gesture.
You might also be interested in this: Selfie hunters on the precipice
Railroad tracks: deadly matter
In 2011, two girls died on the tracks in Memmingen, Swabia. Two years later, two friends in Lünen, Westphalia, died in a fatal accident. “Your Instagram profiles are deleted, so you do not need any more photos,” says Ludwig to the students. Only a few weeks ago, Ludwig’s colleagues in the Upper Franconian court brought two 14-year-olds and their cell phones out of the track bed – before a train arrived.
“Can not we take the photos on tracks that are no longer used?” Asks ten-year-old Leah. “You never know if there are really no trains left,” says the policeman. “If you really need the photos for your social media, you can use image editing programs,” advises Ludwig. Other experts might also advise against it: The wrong photos could eventually bring more children to the idea of going on real rails.
“Photos on railway systems are also made as a test of courage,” says a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bahn. The phenomenon is definitely increasing. Some teenagers climbed to standing trains or trolley masts for photos. The overhead lines are also a deadly danger. “The current can jump up to a meter,” Ludwig explains to the students. Burning crashed in 2017, a 14-year-old in Bremen from a mast to the ground after he wanted to take mobile phone photos.
According to the Federal Police, in 2018 nine people died from traction, including one child. In total, three children at the railway accidentally died. How many children are fatal to photos is unclear.
The number of track selfies without bad consequences recorded the train according to their own information.
To prevent accidents, railway and federal police work closely together, as both emphasize. Among other things with the campaign “safe over it” for railroad crossings. The selfie trend has taken the web in 2015 in a Youtube video. “You can not draw attention to the dangers often enough,” says a spokesman for the Federal Police. For the prevention officials, the police are putting together media packages that would allow them to go to the schools.
Manfred Ludwig tailored his lecture for the students in Upper Franconia specifically to their region. He knows the unrestricted level crossings nearby. He has newspaper reports of accidents in the area. Even in eighth grade he clarifies students. When friends demand a test of courage, like laying stones on rails or running over the tracks in front of a train, Ludwig advises: “Better to be a coward.” Anyone who can say no is also cool.
Enlightenment work for selfies
Ludwig is in schools three to four times a week. The 58-year-old looks after just four districts. Especially the self-education work for selfies seems like a bottomless pit. “I do not recognize a decline,” says Ludwig. The incidents remained at a relatively high level. Teachers also reported about it again and again.
The students in Kirchenlamitz listen attentively and ask many questions. Only at the end are almost all speechless. Ludwig shows them two videos of surveillance cameras. On them you can see how children could only escape to a train in the last second. “The trains are often so quiet that you do not hear them at all,” explains Ludwig. And on the smooth rails, the trains would take a long time to brake. “Until they stop, the trains travel a distance as long as ten football fields.”
The training including the nightmare stories could also be advisable for adults. Photos on train tracks can also be found on the net by balancing adults, by lovers, by people walking with their dogs, by professional photo shootings. Just under the hashtag #Gleise Instagram shows almost 40,000 pictures. Only a few are from children.
You might also be interested in this: I came, saw, and took a selfie