Still too many drivers taking risks at level crossings

13 August 2012

Still too many drivers taking risks at level crossings

A reduction in the number of crashes between vehicles and trains at level crossings is an encouraging sign but there is still room for improvement, says the AA.

Today marks the launch of Rail Safety Week and this year’s message is “use your brain, tracks are for trains”. The campaign is focussing on reducing the amount of trespassing and pedestrians who dangerously walk across railway tracks but the message is just as valid for motorists.

There are about 1400 level crossing on public roads in New Zealand and many drivers will have to cross train tracks on a regular basis. About half of these crossings have some form of electronic warning system like flashing lights, bells or barrier arms but there are still on average about 26 crashes a year between cars and trains.

The first six months of 2012 have seen fewer than normal crashes between vehicles and trains at level crossings with 7 but there has still been 86 reported near misses.

“Crashes between cars and trains mainly involve a driver either not seeing the train or trying to beat one across the tracks,” says AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

“Whenever a driver is approaching a level crossing they need to be double checking for trains and ready to stop. A quick glance just isn’t enough. Trains can’t swerve to avoid a collision or stop – so it’s up to the driver to play it safe every time.”

Because of their size, trains can often seem to be travelling slower than they actually are. So it is crucial that, as well as always thoroughly looking for trains, drivers never go through a crossing if the warning signals are on or they can see a train approaching.

“People can think they have enough time to dart across, but they don’t realise how fast the train is going.

Unbelievably, sometimes drivers can even be seen going around barrier arms to try and beat a train.

“It’s absolutely black and white. Tracks are for trains and if you’re at a level crossing and there is a train coming, or the warning signals are on, then drivers need to stop, end of story.

“It’s good to see that there has been a drop in the number of crashes between vehicles and trains so far this year but 86 near collisions shows there are still far too many people taking huge risks.

“As a country our target should be to have no crashes at level crossings and drivers need to play their part by always looking twice for trains and being a bit more patient at level crossings.”

Railway crossing safety tips for motorists

  1. Always slow down and look both ways when approaching a crossing
  2. Never try to beat a train across the tracks
  3. Always stop and wait if the red lights are flashing or barrier arms have come down
  4. Do not overtake a vehicle that is slowing down or stopping at a crossing
  5. Only enter a crossing if there is enough space for your vehicle to fully exit it on the other side

For more information contact:

Dylan Thomsen
Communications adviser
New Zealand Automobile Association
T. (04) 931 9991
M. 027 703 9935
Email: [email protected]

The New Zealand Automobile Association is an incorporated society with over one million members. It represents the interests of road users who collectively pay over $2 billion in taxes each year through fuels excise, road user charges and GST.

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