The Road Safety Authority, Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Safety Commission launched a ‘Safety at Level Crossings’ initiative, a new public awareness campaign aimed at making road users aware of the correct behaviour at railway crossings and the dangers posed by their misuse.
As part of the campaign a new information booklet, ‘Safety at Level Crossings’ and a 30 second radio advertisement have been produced to provide guidance to road users.
Speaking on the new campaign Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar said that tragically there have been four fatalities at level crossings since 2007.
“Road users should always be conscious of the dangers posed by level crossings,” the Minister added. “The State also has a duty to raise awareness of the risks, so I’m very pleased to see the RSA, Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Safety Commission joining forces for this life-saving campaign.
“These rules are there to save lives. Your own actions at a level crossing can have a significant impact on your own welfare, and the lives of others. Something as simple as leaving a gate open at an unattended crossing can have disastrous consequences for anyone who follows.”
Noel Brett, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority said: “From 2002 to 2011 there have been 21 collisions between trains and users of crossings and this new awareness campaign will provide clear advice on how to behave correctly and safely. In addition to the new booklet and radio ad I’m pleased to say that the section of the Rules of the Road dealing with level crossings and railway bridges has now been updated in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Safety Commission.”
Mr Brett added that this campaign highlighted to road users including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers the dangers posed by level crossings and the steps they should take to stay safe when using them.
“It is up to each and every one of us to share our roads safely and I welcome this joint initiative with Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Safety Commission as another step towards making Irish roads the safest in Europe,” he added.
David Franks, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann said: “Between 2009 and June 2012 there have been 96 Category 1 ‘near misses’. This refers to incidents where the train driver made an emergency brake application in response to a hazard. It is vital that road users understand that they must approach a level crossing with care and then slow down and be prepared to stop.
“Some people may not realise that you must obey the signs and roadway markings at a level crossing. It is highly dangerous to zigzag around the barriers of a crossing or stop on the railway tracks.”
Mr Franks added: “In addition to our most serious incidents there have been 241 cases where a vehicle has been in collision with a level crossing and 86 reports of an obstruction on a crossing. However this is below the European average for such incidents. Iarnród Éireann does not want anyone to be injured, or God forbid killed, at a level crossing and I would urge all road users to take a look at the new guidelines and keep themselves, other road users and Iarnród Éireann staff safe at all times.”
Commenting on the new campaign and guidelines, Railway Safety Commissioner Gerald Beesley strongly welcomed the launch of the guidelines which was timely and necessary.
“In particular I hope that this campaign highlights to all road users the dangers posed due to carelessness at railway level crossings especially those that are unattended,” he said. “Unattended railway level crossings are a high risk area and practically all the documented ‘near misses’ occurred at these types of crossings.”
Mr Beesley urged people to remember that they must shut and fasten the gates at level crossings after use.
“We have had 20 incidents of a train striking a gate as a result of them being left open by a road user which creates a dangerous situation for both road users and railway staff,” he said.
“This carelessness could create a treacherous situation that has tragic consequences and is easily avoidable by following these safe and simple guidelines.”
The ‘Safety at Level Crossings’ campaign includes the publication of the new information booklet which will be available for download from the websites of the Road Safety Authority, Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Safety Commission.
In addition a new 30 second radio advertisement will air on national and local radio from this week. The advertisement urges motorists to take extra care at level crossings, in particular those that are unattended.