Install proper barrier protections at all road level crossings in New Zealand
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In the past six years, more than 100 people have died in collisions with trains in New Zealand. In the 12 months leading to June of this year, there were 71 near misses reported between pedestrians and trains at level crossings throughout the country.
That compares to 17 near misses with pedestrians reported in the 12 months to June 2013, reflecting a global trend of an increase in reported rail accidents involving pedestrians (statistics from NZ Herald).
As individuals become more engrossed in their mobile phones (and other electronic devices), it is important to ensure that everybody is alert when approaching a level crossing. Today (13 August 2018), a rail safety campaign is kicking off as a reminder of the importance of remaining vigilant around railway tracks.
Awareness campaigns are simply not enough. There are around 1,320 public road level crossings and 122 stand-alone public pedestrian level crossings on the KiwiRail rail network in New Zealand. Of the road level crossings, 280 (21 per cent) are protected by half-arm barriers plus flashing lights and bells. 425 (32 per cent) are protected by flashing lights and bells, and the remaining 47 per cent of crossings are protected by either Give Way or Stop signs.
Of the stand-alone pedestrian crossings, 12 are protected by automatic gates or barriers and 32 are protected by flashing signs or flashing lights plus bells (TrackSAFE NZ).
It is shameful that only 21 percent of level crossings in New Zealand are protected by half arm barriers and flashing lights/bells. Even worse - only 12 of the pedestrian crossings (which pose the greatest risk) are protected by automatic gates or barriers. This is the best method of protection for road users and pedestrians. After losing a close friend to a collision with a train at a level crossing, I propose all level crossings in New Zealand should be fitted with proper barrier protections.
The impact that these accidents have not only on the families of the victims, but also on the drivers of the trains, should justify more than just mitigation of the dangers by way of awareness campaigns.
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