On this Car Insurance Blog I would like to pause for a moment with the discussions on finding and comparing quotes – and reflect on a road safety threat that not only causes vehicle damage – but death!! This is the threat of accidents at level crossings / rail crossings.
In the past week we have read in the news about suicides at level crossings both internationally and locally. We would like to focus in this post on the vehicle owner and the importance of cautious driving near level crossings. On the Arrive Alive website we have a rather comprehensive section on Road Safety and Rail Crossings / Level Crossings.
I would like to quote just a few points in raising awareness of why level crossings are so dangerous:
- Freight trains do not travel on a predictable schedule; schedules for these trains change. Passenger trains have a more fixed schedule.
- Trains aren’t required to slow down at crossings and their speed can often be difficult to gauge.
- To gauge the speed of an oncoming train is often very difficult, the brain have to deduce the speed with the increase in size of the front of the train. An approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think.
- Modern trains are quieter than ever, with no telltale “clackety-clack.” Make sure you can hear the sounds of oncoming trains. Using ear phones, loud music and screaming children make crossing the railway line more dangerously.
- Trains have the right of way 100% of the time — over ambulances, fire engines, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- Trains take a long time to stop – even when the train driver slams on the brakes, a loaded train can take more than a kilometre and a half to stop.[1.5km]
- From their driving seat, train drivers cannot see clearly to the left or to the right of the tracks on which their train is travelling. Although they also cannot see people or objects that are on the tracks directly in front of the train there is nothing else that they can do other than to blow the horn and apply the emergency brakes that will take the train one and half kilometre to stop.
- A train may extend a metre or more outside the steel rail, which makes the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the rails themselves. A safe clearance of 5 metre is prescribed.
- Trains cannot swerve to avoid you and given the weight of a train, the chances of you surviving a crash are poor as air bags will not be able to save you when you are involved in a collision with a train.
A picture is often worth a thousand words and we would like to emphasize the need for caution by illustrating the danger with three photos of recent horrific accidents at Rail crossings in South Africa:
14 July 2009 – Lady dies at Level Crossing in Bloemfontein [ Photo from Volksblad]
To cross a railway line or lines with moving trains isn’t complicated. It is a matter of knowing the rules and obeying them to ensure that you arrive at your destination safely. We would like to urge all our vehicle owners to exercise extreme caution at level crossings! Be alert to stay alive!
For more information on safe driving near Level Crossings view: