Research reveals one in every seven drivers dice with death at level crossings every day: Level crossing incident involving car image 1

Wednesday 3 Oct 2018

Research reveals one in every seven drivers dice with death at level crossings every day

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New research from Network Rail reveals an alarming one in seven drivers report they wouldn’t wait for the barrier or gate to open at a level crossing before driving their vehicle over. In the last five years alone, six people have lost their lives in vehicles at level crossings 1, with many more being hurt and injured.

Every week around 46 incidents involving vehicles take place at level crossings across the country 2; lorries are the most common specific vehicle type involved (32 per cent), with cars the second most common (28 per cent) 3.

The study, by Populus on behalf of Network Rail, reveals a lack of knowledge may be to blame, with almost a third of UK drivers reporting they have never been taught how to use a level crossing (31 per cent), leaving them more likely to be unaware of the dangers and more likely to take risks.

While Britain has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks as Network Rail’s 20,000 miles of track is crossed by around 3,800 public and private road crossings.

The study revealed nearly half of the drivers surveyed (45 per cent) felt their passengers were their biggest distraction while driving. The thought of arriving late also distracted nearly a third (30 per cent) of drivers, with exams or a hospital appointment being the top reasons for not waiting at a level crossing.

Worryingly, the findings showed one in nine (11 per cent) drivers would go straight over a level crossing if they had checked the train timetable and believed no train was coming. This is particularly dangerous as freight trains or other trains not listed on the public timetable often pass through level crossings at speeds of up to 100mph.

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, said: “It’s clear that there is a lack of knowledge around how dangerous railway crossings can be. We are seeing drivers take risks at level crossings every day - putting themselves and others in danger. Nothing is worth risking your life over, just to save a few minutes of time.”

“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need drivers to obey the law at level crossings. By staying behind the barrier until it is safe to cross and paying attention to the warnings at level crossings, we can all keep ourselves and those in our vehicles out of harm’s way.”

To help increase awareness of the dangers at level crossings, Network Rail is partnering with British Transport Police on a national safety campaign targeted at drivers to remind them of the dangers of not following the safety instructions at a level crossing. The campaign focuses on all drivers, working with specific groups such as van and delivery drivers to raise awareness of what can happen if you ignore the warnings.

Inspector Becky Warren from British Transport Police said: “We run a number of activities at level crossings throughout the UK.  We want to raise awareness, help to educate drivers in how best to use level crossings and the potential dangers and consequences of deliberate miss use. Failing to stop when the lights come on, or worse still when the barriers start to come down, not only puts you and others in danger but these are also offences which will lead to you being prosecuted.”

Network Rail’s level crossing and community safety managers will continue to work with British Transport Police officers and raise awareness of level crossing safety across the rail network. They will hold safety events, and encourage people to stay alert and avoid distractions when using a level crossing.

Remember to:

  • ALWAYS follow instructions on signs and obey audible and visual warnings of approaching trains
  • ALWAYS be prepared to stop and REMEMBER that there might be more than one train coming
  • NEVER drive through red lights or around barriers, they are there to protect you
  • If you are unsure how to cross safely, use the telephone (if one is provided) or find an alternative route
  • NEVER drive onto a level crossing unless your exit is clear

To find out more about level crossing safety visit


Notes to editors

1) Research carried out in September 2018 by Populus - surveying 1,613 people that hold a UK drivers licence.

  1. Data taken from between 1 October 2014 to 1 October 2018
  2. 10,524 incidents recorded between 1 April 2014 to 31 August 2018 in England
  3. Followed by farming vehicles (13 per cent) and vans (12 per cent

Contact information

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Lexie Jenkins
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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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