Level Crossing Lunacy: Nearly 50 Vehicles Hit by Trains Every Week

by Brady Myles - 3 Min Read

A new report has uncovered the risks UK drivers are taking when confronted with a level crossing.

According to new research, one in seven drivers admit they would ignore red lights and jump a level crossing. Such absurd risk-taking probably explains why 46 incidents involving vehicles happen every week on the UK’s level crossings.

Over the past five years, the figure climbs to a shocking 10,500 incidents in all with six people killed plus many others injured.

Urban legend
The survey of 1,600 people carried out by Network Rail also revealed that a staggering one in nine drivers would head over a level crossing if they had checked the rail timetable beforehand and believed no train was due.

The problem with that ‘theory’? Freight trains aren’t listed in timetables and can come pummeling down the track at all times of the day, often at speeds of 100mph.

Most dangerous drivers
The biggest crossing jumpers are lorry drivers (32%) followed by car drivers (28%) with all risking a fine of £60 and three points on their licence if caught. In some counties, the problem is so bad that enforcement cameras have been fitted that dish out automatic fines for drivers who decide to flout the law.

For instance, 21 level crossings in Sussex now have the cameras in place to try and deter drivers from taking unnecessary risks.

How to Cross Safely
There are 3,800 level crossings in the UK with many featuring lights and barriers but in some cases, just gates – here’s what to do when you approach any type of crossing:

Just Lights – Many crossings have lights that flash from amber to red. If you are approaching and see an amber light, stop your car before the white line. If the amber light comes after you’ve gone over the white line then continue; don’t stop or try and reverse.

You should also be aware that there are some level crossings that only have small light signals that show either green or red; only ever attempt to go over a level crossing when the light is green.

Light & Barriers – Many level crossings use a combination of both lights and full/half barriers. The sequence is the lights will go from steadily flashing amber – so stop – then to flashing red with the barriers coming down.

There is also typically an audible warning to help warn pedestrians as well. Wait for the train to pass – but don’t assume that the crossing is safe and that you can zig-zag your way round the barriers; other trains might pass one after another so wait until the red lights stop flashing and the barriers come up before proceeding with your car – and life – still in tact.

No Barriers & No Lights – Though few and far between, such level crossings do still exist in the UK and are simply gated. The onus then is on you, the driver, to ensure that it is safe to cross. Come to a stop in front of the gate, get out and see if there is a railway telephone – use this to contact the signal operator who can warn you if a train is coming.

If all is clear, then open the gate, walk across the track – always checking each way down the track before and as you go – and open the other gate. Drive across, stop again and close the gates before calling back the operator to inform them that you’re safely across.

Keep a level head

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Crashed car © Network Rail

Level crossing image © Walter Baxter

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