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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