FIVE people died when cars and tractors collided with trains at unmanned level crossings in the last few years.
Another 96 motorists and their passengers escaped death in ‘near misses’, it was also revealed today as a major campaign got underway to curb the alarming number of deaths and near misses at railway crossings.
In the past decade alone there have been 21 crashes between trains and motorists, new figures disclosed.
Cars and tractors stalling on level crossings have led to some fatalities, while many near misses occurred after unattended railway gates were left open by a previous user.
There are a total of 1,000 level crossings where the public interact with moving trains.
At some, motorists have to look in both directions to ensure that no trains are coming before opening two sets of gates, crossing, and then closing the gates.
The Road Safety Authority, Irish Rail and the Railway Safety Commission launched ‘Safety at Level Crossings,’ a new public awareness campaign aimed at making road users aware of the correct behaviour at railway crossings and the dangers posed by their misuse.
Railway Safety Commissioner Gerald Beesley warned about the the dangers posed by to carelessness at railway level crossings especially those that are unattended.
“Unattended railway level crossings are a high risk area and practically all the documented ‘near misses’ occurred at these types of crossings.”
Mr Beesley added, “I would urge people to remember that you must shut and fasten the gates at level crossings after you. ”
“We have had 20 incidents of a train striking a gate as a result of them being left open by a road user which creates a dangerous situation for both road users and railway staff.”
“This carelessness could create a treacherous situation that has tragic consequences and is easily avoidable by following these safe and simple guidelines.”
As part of the campaign a new information booklet, ‘Safety at Level Crossings’ and a 30 second radio ad have been produced.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said: “Tragically there have been four fatalities at level crossings since 2007.”
“ Road users should always be conscious of the dangers posed by level crossings. The State also has a duty to raise awareness of the risks.”
“These rules are there to save lives. Your own actions at a level crossing can have a significant impact on your own welfare, and the lives of others. “
“Something as simple as leaving a gate open at an unattended crossing can have disastrous consequences for anyone who follows.”
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said the campaign highlighted to road users including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers the dangers posed by level crossings and the steps they should take to stay safe when using them.
Irish Rail chief executive David Franks disclosed that between 2009 and June 2012 there have been 96 Category 1 ‘near misses’
This refers to incidents where the train driver had to apply emergency brakes in response to a hazard.
“ It is vital that road users understand that they must approach a level crossing with care and then slow down and be prepared to stop,” he added.
“Some people may not realise that you must obey the signs and roadway markings at a level crossing. It is highly dangerous to zigzag around the barriers of a crossing or stop on the railway tracks. “
Mr Franks said that there were another 241 cases where a vehicle has been in collision with a level crossing and 86 reports of an obstruction on a crossing.
“Iarnrod Eireann does not want anyone to be injured, or God forbid killed, at a level crossing and I would urge all road users to take a look at the new guidelines and keep themselves, other road users and Iarnród Éireann staff safe at all times”.