Calls for action over dangerous driving at level crossings
Hayley Mace Rail bosses have called for driving theory tests to be changed in an attempt to reduce the number of collisions and deaths on level crossings.
Rail bosses have called for driving theory tests to be changed in an attempt to reduce the number of collisions and deaths on level crossings.
New figures have shown that there were 393 reported incidents of unsafe driving on East Anglia's rail lines in 2009, including motorists running red lights and dodging barriers at crossings.
Yesterday, Network Rail called for questions about level crossings to be made compulsory on the driving theory test in a bid to improve knowledge of the risks, as it was revealed that there were 27 near misses involving a train and a car in East Anglia last year and 43 incidents where pedestrians came close to being hit by a train.
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Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: “Motorists are too often playing Russian Roulette with a 200 tonne train and tragically some lose their lives gambling at level crossings by running red lights or dodging around barriers.
“I'm confident that lives will be saved if motorists learn how to safely use level crossings from the day they pass their test.”
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He said that pedestrians also needed to be more aware of the risk of walking across train lines. “I would urge everyone to observe the warning signs and lights and use crossings safely and correctly,” he said.
Andrew Howard, head of road safety at The AA, said that adding questions about crossings on to theory tests could help make drivers more aware of the rules.
He said: “Level crossings are one of the few places where one motorist's irresponsibility can affect the safety of many, many people.
“Motorists must be aware of the rules, which are simple, logical and well-signed. The risk in trying to save two minutes jumping a level crossing just isn't worth it.”
There were no deaths on crossings in East Anglia last year, but in December, a 25-year-old man suffered life-changing injures when his car was in collision with a train at the level crossing in Tunstead.
Network Rail is already working to improve pedestrian safety at the level crossing in Downham Market, which is recognised as being one of the most dangerous in the country, by building a footbridge to prevent people walking across the track.
In Suffolk, several high visibility patrols have been carried out by British Transport Police at the Oulton Broad North level crossing, near Lowestoft, and in February this year, four motorists were fined and given three penalty points on their licences after failing to stop at the flashing warning lights at the crossing.
Nationally, the number of incidents on level crossings fell slightly to 3,244 in 2009, down from 3,495 the previous year. There were 14 collisions between cars and trains and 13 deaths across the country.