More patience and awareness needed at railway crossings

Published: Mon 22 Aug 2011 02:22 PM
More patience and awareness needed at railway crossings
The AA is encouraging drivers to show more patience and awareness at railway level crossings.
One of the issues being highlighted in this year's Rail Safety Week (22-28 August) is the all too common occurrence of drivers stopping on railway crossings when they are in a queue of traffic.
"Just because a train isn't coming right now doesn't mean one isn't 10 seconds away," says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon. "If you are sitting right behind another car with part of your vehicle still on the tracks and a train appears you can have nowhere to go.
"For the sake of moving a few metres you are risking damage to your car at best and, at worst, your life along with other people's.
"If you are in a line of traffic, be patient and wait until there is enough space on the other side for you to drive completely through a crossing." In the last 12 months there have been 16 crashes at public railway crossings, resulting in one death, and locomotive engineers have also reported more than 120 near misses.
"When there is a crash, the causes are regularly found to be drivers simply not seeing the train or misjudging how much time and space they had to cross," says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon. "As drivers we have to realise we can and will make mistakes sometimes and when these take place at a train crossing the consequences can be devastating.
"Trains can't stop suddenly or swerve to avoid a crash. Drivers need to make doubly sure there isn't a train coming when they approach a crossing - this is always a situation where it is better to be safe than sorry." "Slowing down and looking twice won't cost you anything as a driver but it might save you or your loved ones' lives."
About half of New Zealand's 1400 level crossings have some form of electronic warning system like flashing lights, bells or barrier arms that activate when a train is coming but, even so, about 90 of the near misses reported by locomotive engineers in the last year came at crossings protected by automatic alarms.
It appears that drivers either do not see both the alarms and oncoming train or think they have time to get across the tracks before the train arrives This is extremely dangerous as large moving objects like trains can often look like they are travelling slower than they are.
Drivers should not blindly trust their lives to the automatic warning systems either. A fault could have stopped them working and drivers should still always look for trains even if the warning system is not going. "Force yourself into good habits of properly checking for trains every time One day you will encounter one and will need to have time to stop for it." This year's Rail Safety Week will launch a nationwide awareness campaign based on the message 'Stay Clear. Stay Safe'.
As part of this two trains in Auckland and Wellington will carry an image on their exterior showing a car smashing through barrier arms and into the side of the train.
A new website,, has also been launched to raise awareness and educate the public about rail safety. 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

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