A REPORT by Railned, the body responsible for managing Netherlands Railway’s infrastructure, reveals that 40% of collisions on level crossings are due to reckless disregard by road users for their own safety. This follows a study which analysed 6152 incidents at around 1000 locations during the 12 years from 1985 to 1997.

The most common offences were zig-zagging around closed barriers (17% of all collisions) and deliberately trying to cross after one train when the person knows a second is approaching (16%). Of the remaining 60%, half are due to misjudgement or inattention, mainly by car drivers, and in 23% of cases the road vehicle is trapped by other traffic or a stalled engine. Only 7% are attributable to NS: 6% when trains are being flagged across with the barriers up, and 1% are technical failures.

It comes as no surprise to learn that the 15 to 25 age group is over-represented when it come to reckless behaviour, and that the majority are pedestrians, cyclists or scooter riders. This is because it is much easier for these groups to dodge around barriers than it is for drivers of cars or larger road vehicles. As 90% of road users involved in collisions used the crossing regularly, it seems it is not ignorance but familiarity which breeds contempt.

Remedies have been evaluated for cost-effectiveness in terms of reducing road and rail casualties, and a programme of improvements has been drawn up that should cut casualties by 25%. Priority is being given to sealing off paths used by cyclists and pedestrians when the barriers are closed so that getting through becomes physically difficult. The visibility of red warning lights will be increased, and carriageways will be divided to discourage zig-zagging. Curbs will prevent cars from being driven off the side of the crossing where they could become stranded. The average cost is 60000 guilders per crossing, and the annual budget for the work is being increased from 50m to 65m guilders by 2002. Fifty high-risk crossings will be dealt with in the first wave.