More than 60 pedestrians narrowly missed by trains at level crossings

Police have covertly monitored some of the country's most dangerous level rail crossings this week as the number of near misses continues to rise.

Four people died on level crossings in the five months to May this year.

And KiwiRail data shows a steady rise in the number of near misses at level crossings - with 33 to date this year, 39 last tear, 28 in 2014 and 10 in 2013.

According to police, there have been 61 near misses with pedestrians at level crossings, stations and platforms in 2016.

At Takanini's Walters Rd level crossing - a site that saw the death of a 32-year-old pedestrian in October 2013 - Counties Manukau's new road policing manager Rod Honan said he'd seen a lot happen since he first moved to the South Auckland suburb in the 1980s.

"It's always been a bad crossing," he said, "the road was so uneven cars would become airborne if they went over too fast."

As Auckland's new electric trains sped through the crossing this morning, Honan and a team of officers looked out for bad behaviour among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Working as a "spotter", senior constable Grant Gamlen stood to the side of the tracks watching motorists as they crossed, and communicating with two officers about 100 metres down Walters Rd in either direction.

Within about 10 minutes of arrival, police stopped a driver who became airborne after speeding through the crossing.

The vehicle was without a warrant of fitness, and there were five warrants out for the driver's arrest, police said.

Honan said speeding over the crossings could cause motorists to lose control and also posed a danger to bystanders.

Another issue was distraction.

"Sometimes people just get tunnel vision.

"All young folks have devices to play music so they're always wearing earbuds."

Honan said listening to loud music could mean missing the sound of trains and warning bells at crossings.

"Walters Rd is one of the high risk intersections where we've had a number of fatals."

He said police hoped to remind and reeducate people to adhere to the lights at level crossings.

"Be aware of your surroundings, take your time at railway crossings."

In the five months to May this year, three pedestrians and a cyclist have died on railway level crossings.

Over the same period, eight motorists were injured.

Last year, three people died on level crossings and one other was seriously injured.

And a shocking 17 cars collided with trains on the crossings, with 184 near misses.

There were three collisions and 19 near misses involving pedestrians or cyclists in 2015, according to the Ministry of Transport.

There are more than 1300 level crossings in New Zealand.

This week's Rail Safety Week coordinated by KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ, with the support of the police and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Near collisions with pedestrians at level crossings:

• 2011 = 8
• 2012 = 8
• 2013 = 10
• 2014 = 28
• 2015 = 39
• 2016 (to date) = 33

Source: KiwiRail


TrackSAFE NZ safety advice for pedestrians:

• Take extra care and stay alert when crossing the tracks.

• Remember to always obey the warning signs at the crossing - if lights are flashing or bells are ringing, one or more trains are coming.

• Stop and look for trains both ways up and down the tracks.

• Stay focused. Take off your headphones and put away your phone when near railway tracks.

• If there's a pedestrian swing gate, wait until the gate opens fully before crossing.

• Don't assume an approaching train will stop at the station - some trains pass through stations without stopping (freight and not-in-service trains).

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 07 Dec 2016 04:37:40 Processing Time: 431ms