Warning to parents as number of near misses involving children at level crossings set to rise over the summer
New figures from Network Rail 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 near misses at level crossings rising significantly during August and early September.
The new data also reveals that over two thirds (70 per cent) of near misses are due to distraction. The top three distractions at level crossings are highlighted as friends (40 per cent), headphones (20 per cent) and mobile phones (12 per cent).
Almost a third (29 per cent) of young adults admit to using their mobile phone while crossing the railway. A huge 95 per cent of under 25s report owning a smartphone and spend twice the amount of time on their mobile than the average user.
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 people.
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.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety, Network Rail
To help combat the issue of distraction at level crossings, Network Rail and British Transport Police are 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 that can be used to educate children, and is 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.
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.
Inspector Becky Warren, British Transport Police (BTP)
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 when on the 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.