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Level crossing collisions

There have been 224 collisions between cars and trains at public road level crossings in New Zealand in the ten years to 15 October 2014.

Road level crossing collisions

On average there are around 22 collisions per year between trains and motor vehicles on public road crossings.

In the past ten years about 11 percent of road level crossing collisions occurred where half-arm barriers plus flashing lights and bells were installed.  33 percent happened where flashing lights and bells were installed.  The remaining collisions occurred at crossings protected by signs alone.

In any 10 year period over 85 percent of road level crossings are collision free.  A small group of "collision black spot" level crossings (those with more than one collision within ten years) are responsible for around 31 percent of all collisions.

Half arm barriers are considered to eliminate around 90 percent of collisions and flashing lights and bells are considered to eliminate about 65 percent of collisions that would have occurred at a crossing if it had been protected by signs alone.

Pedestrian level crossing collisions

Over the past ten years there were 34 collisions between pedestrians and trains at 31 different locations.  This is around 3 collisions per year. 

Approximately 75 percent of pedestrian level crossing collisions occur where automatic alarms are installed.

source: KiwiRail, October

Trespass incidents

Trespassers struck by trains is the leading cause of railway deaths in New Zealand.  From 1994 to 2012, 204 people have died while trespassing on railway tracks. (New Zealand Ministry of Transport data).

A significant number of trespasser deaths are considered to be suicides.

Trends

In data collected between 1990 and 2012 from the NZ Transport Agency's Crash Analysis System (CAS) relating to all collisions between motor vehicles and trains at a level crossing:

  • around two thirds of the crashes involved cars or station wagons
  • approximately 15 per cent involved vans or utes, and 8 per cent were trucks
  • 73 per cent of drivers involved in fatal and injury crashes held full drivers' licences
  • of these drivers, around 72 per cent were male
  • the highest represented group in level crossing collisions is men aged between 40-59
  • women aged over 60 are the least likely group to be involved in a level crossing collision

Interesting facts:

  • most collisions occur during daylight hours and in fine weather
  • collisions at night occur when motorists drive into the side of a train
  • a significant number of collisions occur within a close proximity of a person's home
  • around 11 per cent of all collisions happen at crossings with barrier arms

The majority of collisions occur because the driver has made a mistake (didn't look or failed to see the train) or because they thought they could beat the train over the crossing.

More statistical information can be found on the Ministry of Transport website.



Your stories
  • Mike Kilsby “It impacts on all your family and friends”
Latest news

Rail Safety Week launches high tech simulator

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Motorists are being given the chance to take the controls of a freight train courtesy of high tech virtual reality technology, in the name of rail safety.

KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ have developed an interactive train simulator for Rail Safety Week in an effort to minimise the number of near misses experienced by train drivers at level crossings around the country every day.

“Every near miss is in reality a near hit,” says KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy.

“We hope that by putting people into the driver’s seat of a train they will better understand the need to stay alert and always be prepared to stop as they approach level crossings.

Rail Safety Week 2014 was launched in Wellington today by the Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Those keen to try out the experience will be asked to don Occulus Rift virtual reality headsets at a series of events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Masterton. The simulation is also available online here.

In the year to date there have been 16 collisions with vehicles and cyclists, with five fatalities in four separate incidents. In addition there have been 68 near collisions reported, although the actual incidence is likely to be much higher.

Mr Reidy says a train hauling 1500 tonnes takes up to a kilometre to stop and that is why trains have right of way at level crossings.

“I am horrified to hear the stories from our drivers of the many instances that they see motorists ignoring flashing lights and bells, or driving through level crossings protected with Give Way or Stop signs just ahead of their train.

“We urge motorists to always approach a level crossing prepared to stop. They should always obey the alarms or road signs and never enter the crossing until they have checked both ways to ensure there is enough time to cross safely.”

TrackSAFE Manager Megan Drayton says trains are heavy and take a very long time to stop – and research has shown that many people cannot accurately gauge how fast they are travelling.

“Crossing in front of an approaching train is very risky behaviour, and each one of those instances could so easily have ended in a tragedy that affects many lives.

“Train drivers are so often the forgotten victims in these circumstances. They are simply doing their day’s work, and if someone puts themselves in the wrong place – whether by inattention or misjudgement – there is little a train driver can do to prevent a collision. That is why this year we have made them a big part of this week’s activities by telling their stories.”

Other agencies to support the campaign include the NZ Police, the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport, Tranz Metro, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Transdev Auckland.

Ms Drayton says she recently surveyed all train drivers to find out what crossings they believed to be the worst. “We’ve been able to pass this information on to Police, so that they can target their enforcement activities to the right areas.”

Police will be conducting nationwide spot checks at these hot spot level crossings and in some areas will travel with the train drivers in the cabs of the locomotives.  Read more

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