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Each year across Australia there are around 1000 near miss incidents involving a train and a motorist or pedestrian at level crossings. CARRS-Q states that the majority of risky behaviour at railway crossings is a result of violations of road rules.
International Level Crossings Awareness Day or ILCAD, organised by UIC, is observed annually and it fell on Thursday the 9th of June this year with Denver hosting its annual conference.
A level crossing is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path at the same level and in Australia, there are over 20,000 level crossings across the country. Any collision or near miss at a level crossing is labelled a level crossing occurrence. Between 2014-2019, there were 194 collisions between trains and vehicles and 27 collisions between trains and pedestrians at level crossings in Australia.
ILCAD aims to raise awareness of the risks at level crossings to encourage road users and pedestrians to act safely at level crossings.
Excluding trespass and suicide, accidents at level crossings account for the largest number of railway-related fatalities involving members of the public in Australia.
The newest data shows that collisions and near misses at level crossings from 2020-2021 have largely remained unchanged despite the pandemic resulting in a reduction of road vehicle and pedestrian movement at crossings. This coincides with reports of increased risk-taking on the roads during the pandemic.
The Office of The National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) reported that from 2016 January until March 2022, when excluding suspected suicides, there were 95 railway fatalities.
Of the level crossings in Australia, approximately one in five are labeled active; meaning they have boom gates and/or flashing lights to alert the road users when a train is coming. Passive level crossings, which make up the majority of level crossings in the country, have a ‘Stop’ or ‘Give Way’ sign to inform and warn road users that trains pass in the area.
The 2020–2021 ONRSR Rail Safety Report, shares that in the 2020-2021 financial year, there were 39 level crossings collisions, either with a vehicle or person, and 725 near misses. 53% of collisions occurred at passive level crossings which was an increase of more than 10% compared to the previous year.
Of these level crossing collisions, 34 were between a passenger or freight train and road vehicle which resulted in four fatalities and four serious injuries. All fatalities were road vehicle occupants and over 35% of the collisions involved a heavy road vehicle.
The remaining five level crossing collisions were between a freight train, passenger train or tram and person. Four pedestrians lost their lives as a result of these collisions.
It can take a fully loaded freight train up to 2km to stop after applying the emergency brakes. This is why it is important to remember that at level crossings, the train always has the right of way.
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