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Transport Agency urges drivers to ‘get off autopilot’ at level crossings

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The NZ Transport Agency is today launching a new campaign targeted at improving driver awareness at rail level crossings in rural areas. The ‘Expect Trains’ campaign aims to get local drivers off autopilot when crossing rural rail tracks.

The campaign will see a locomotive-sized billboard and other signs placed near selected rural level crossings. The life-sized locomotive billboard acts as a visual reminder for drivers to slow down and check for real trains before they cross the tracks.

A time-lapse video of the billboard being installed can be viewed here(external link)

The campaign is being officially launched at the level crossing on Wiltons Road in Carterton today. Like many rural level crossings, Wiltons Road level crossing is protected by Stop or Give Ways signs only, not with flashing lights, bells or barrier arms.

Celia Patrick, Director of Rail Safety and Access and Use Group Manager, says the focus on raising awareness with local drivers in rural areas is the result of research that indicated they can be complacent around level crossings that they use regularly.

“Local drivers often don’t perceive the risk of rural level crossings to be very high, and this complacency can lead to risky behaviour like failing to carefully look for trains before crossing rail tracks. We really want drivers in rural areas to sit up and take notice of level crossings and the life-sized train billboard should make them do just that.”

Complacency at rural level crossings by local drivers is likely to be because they have grown up around rail tracks and drive across level crossings everyday – possibly multiple times a day. Previous experience is that they don’t normally coming across a train.

“Services on rural train lines are usually infrequent so the majority of times local drivers cross at a level crossing, they see an empty track. This leads to a bit of autopilot behaviour where they fail to look properly in both directions to see if a train is coming,” says Ms Patrick.

The Transport Agency has a role in promoting safe use of the rail corridor by rail operators, road users and pedestrians. As part of this role, the Transport Agency runs awareness campaigns and works with other organisations in the rail sector.

The ‘Expect a train’ campaign has been developed and partly funded by the Transport Agency, with additional funding from KiwiRail and is being launched as part of Rail Safety Week 2015.

Background

The Wiltons Road level crossing has had one vehicle and train collision in 2013 (resulting in a fatality) and three near collisions in the past five years.

After approximately three months at the Wiltons Road site, the campaign will be progressively moved to other higher risk level crossing sites throughout New Zealand. These sites were selected based on their history of collisions and near collisions in recent years.

47% of the 1,320 public road level crossings on KiwiRail’s network are protected by Give Way or Stop signs, with the remainder protected by a combination of bells, alarms and barriers. There are also 1,300 level crossings on private land which are mostly rural and are protected by Give Way or Stop signs. 

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