Public road level crossing collision figures have hit an all-time low as we observe International level crossing awareness day. “The collision average was previously around three per month but has now fallen to around one per month. This is a very positive reduction which has shown a declining trend since December 2009,” says Infrastructure and Engineering General Manager Rick van Barneveld.
“We have worked hard to raise awareness about level crossing safety through various campaigns and I think we can attribute some of the collision decline to this along with our ongoing work to upgrade higher risk crossings around the country.”
There have been 57 public road level crossing collisions since 1 July 2009. Two of these were fatal.
Collisions however, do not just occur between road vehicles and trains, there were seven pedestrian collisions with three resulting in fatalities and 25 recorded trespasser incidents with nine of these resulting in fatalities during the same period.
KiwiRail undertakes a number of rail safety initiatives including providing rail safety education programmes, conducting anti-trespass initiatives, and
upgrading public level crossings. In addition KiwiRail is a major sponsor of the Chris Cairns Foundation, which aims to raise public awareness about rail safety.
“Despite the reduction in public level crossing collisions we will continue our efforts to raise awareness and get the safety message out there. Unfortunately a low result now doesn’t mean that it will stay that way if we stop reminding people about the dangers.”
“Fatal level crossing collisions are obviously devastating for the victims’ families but people often forget they also have an impact on our drivers. Our drivers are put in really tough positions when they occur. Trains are heavy, they can’t swerve and they do take time to come to a halt which often means collisions cannot be avoided. In addition our drivers are often the first on the scene, giving first aid and calling emergency services. One can only imagine what this must feel like, unfortunately our drivers are experiencing this more than we would like.”
“While we do offer our drivers a range of support after a collision, it is simply something we would like to avoid by urging people to be more vigilant around crossings and in some cases not taking risks.”
“We hear too often that collisions are the result of drivers becoming complacent at level crossings or even ignoring safety measures like alarms and barriers.”
International Level Crossing Awareness Day is observed on 7 June by over 40 countries around the world. The Chris Cairns Foundation are launching a heavy vehicle safety campaign this week.