Friday 14 Jul 2017
Warning to parents as number of near misses involving children at level crossings set to rise over the summer holidays
New figures from Network Rail¹ reveal that young people are more likely to have a near miss at a level crossing during the summer. Light nights, coupled with the summer holidays, spell danger for Britain’s youth with August and early September seeing near misses at level crossings rise significantly¹.
Furthermore the new data also reveals that over two thirds (70 per cent) of near misses are due to distraction. With the top three distractions at level crossings highlighted as friends (40 per cent), headphones (20 per cent) and mobile phones (12 per cent). Almost a third (29%) of young adults admit to using their mobile phone while crossing the railway. A huge 95 per cent of under 25 year olds report owning a smart phone and spend twice the amount of time on their mobile than the average user².
While Britain still has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks on the railway. In the last five years there have been more than 2,000 incidents on level crossings involving young people¹.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “Many people are aware of the issue of distraction for drivers, but it is very worrying that so many young adults admit to putting themselves at unnecessary risk by getting distracted when crossing the railway.
“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need everyone who uses level crossings to do their bit too. By paying attention to the warnings at level crossings and avoiding distractions, we can all keep ourselves out of harm’s way.”
To help combat the issue of distraction at level crossings, Network Rail and British Transport Police is embracing new technologies to help reach young people and make them more aware of the dangers. The rail infrastructure company has produced a series of virtual reality films which can be used to educate children. They are also introducing geo-targeting at a number of level crossings where phone distraction has been flagged as high risk which will alert people using their phones near level crossings to put them away.
Inspector Becky Warren from British Transport Police (BTP) said:
“Level crossings are there to help people cross the railway when it is safe to do so but pedestrians need to pay full attention when they use them.
“Sadly, our officers know the tragedy families are faced with after a loved one is killed at a level crossing. A moment of distraction, be that checking a text or changing a song, can leave devastation and heartbreak for families.
“We regularly conduct operations at level crossings and run events across the country in conjunction with our partners in Network Rail to raise awareness on how to use crossings safely.”
Network Rail’s army of over 100 level crossing and community safety managers will also be raising awareness of rail safety right across the rail network by holding safety events and encouraging young people to stay alert when on the rail network.
Tina Hughes lost her daughter Olivia at Elsenham level crossing in December 2005 whilst on way to a Christmas shopping trip with her friend. Due to her tragic loss, Tina knows just how important it is to raise awareness of the dangers at crossings and explains why she is such a supporter of Network Rail’s safety campaigns.
“Olivia and her friend waited for one train to pass, walked out and were hit by another train heading in the other direction. She was just 14 years old. My life has never been the same since and I would never want another parent to go through the same pain. I have campaigned tirelessly since the death of my daughter to make sure risk around level crossings is managed better.
“Network Rail invited me to work with them in 2011 so I could improve the way level crossings are managed and to make sure risk is reduced as much as possible. They have made huge strides to improve level crossings safety since the failings that happened at Elsenham. The campaigns they run are a part of this and I know that distraction is a big issue at level crossings. If sharing what happened to Olivia encourages just one parent to warn their child about the dangers at level crossings then telling my story is worth it.”
To find out more about how to stay safe when using level crossings visit www.networkrail.co.uk/level-crossings/
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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.
Every day, there are more than 4.8 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.