From the OL website:
Operation Lifesaver started in Idaho in 1972 when the national average of collisions at highway-rail grade crossings exceeded 12,000 annually. A six-week public awareness campaign called "Operation Lifesaver" was sponsored by the office of Governor Cecil Andrus, the Idaho Peace Officers and Union Pacific railroad as a one-time, one-state initiative.
During the campaign’s first year, Idaho’s crossing-related fatalities dropped by 43 percent. The next year, the Operation Lifesaver campaign spread to Nebraska, where their collision rate was reduced by 26 percent. Kansas and Georgia experienced similar success the following year.
Between 1978 and 1986, while Operation Lifesaver operated under the auspices of the National Safety Council, all 49 continental states started independent Operation Lifesaver programs. In 1986, the national program was released from NSC and incorporated as a national, non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization. The founding sponsors of Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) - the Railway Supply Institute, Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads - continue to serve on OLI's 11 member Board of Directors.
Operation Lifesaver is now active in the 50 continental United States and in parts of Canada. Since its inception in 1972, this public education program has dramatically reduced injuries and fatalities. A cooperative effort involving education, engineering and enforcement are the three factors that continue to make this program successful. Education is provided by the volunteers involved in Operation Lifesaver. Engineering is provided by the professionals who are responsible for improving and maintaining the crossings. Enforcement is provided by your local and state law enforcement officials and railroad police officers who actively enforce the laws at crossings and along the railroad right-of-ways.