In 1972, the Idaho State Highway Patrol, then-Governor Cecil Andrus and the Union Pacific Railroad mounted campaign to promote "Stop, Look and Listen" safety at highway-rail grade crossings. The initial teams spoke to civic groups, school groups, school bus and truck drivers. Idaho experienced a 43% reduction in fatalities that first year.
In 2006, Operation Lifesaver requested that Disney edit a scene of the Pixar film Cars in which the character of Lightning McQueen races a train to a grade crossing while the crossing lights are flashing. Disney/Pixar has removed the scene in question from theater showings but the DVD release of the movie still includes the scene.
On October 14th, 2016, Operation Lifesaver requested via a Facebook post that Hollister Co. remove advertisements from their website showing teenagers walking on railroad tracks. Hollister removed the advertisements five days later, on October 19th, 2016.
In September 2017, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. spearheaded the observance of Rail Safety Week across the U.S. to raise awareness of the need for caution near railroad tracks and property.  In 2018, Operation Lifesaver Canada, which had been holding rail safety week observances for years, aligned its Rail Safety Week dates to coincide with the U.S. observance.
Operation Lifesaver has been criticized for its strong ties to the railroad industry and the group's skew toward the railroad industry. The industry has reduced its support of the group’s efforts by providing fewer workers to help spread the group’s safety message. The group has also been criticized for not doing enough to support pedestrian railroad safety in the United States.
BNSF Manitoba Caboose (BN 12580) with Operation Lifesaver Canada paint scheme.
- "Safety Group Tied to Industry". New York Times. 14 November 2005. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
Operation Lifesaver is the nation's largest and most influential rail-safety group, but documents show that the organization is tightly bound to the railroad industry, and its critics, including many accident victims, say it inoculates railroads against liability in grade-crossing collisions
- Bogdanich, Walt; Jenny Nordberg (23 January 2005). "Highway Agency Disavows Claims by Rail Safety Group". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit association co-founded three decades ago by Union Pacific, has denied having a pro-railroad agenda.
- "Statement of Gerri L. Hall, President, Operation Lifesaver, Inc". Federal Document Clearing House. 29 April 1998. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
- "Railroads, Operation Lifesaver mark national Rail Safety Week". Cite error: The named reference "ols" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).