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
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.
About the Railway Upgrade Plan
The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:
- longer, faster more frequent trains;
- better, more reliable infrastructure; and
- better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.