INTERNATIONAL: Railway operators in more than 45 countries across the world are participating in the sixth International Level Crossing Awareness Day on June 3. The campaign is intended to raise public awareness of the safety risks surrounding level crossings, in order to change the behaviour of road users, including vehicle drivers and pedestrians.
Since 2009, the ILCAD campaign spearheaded by the International Union of Railways has garnered wide support across the rail sector, together with a growing number of road sector organisations, the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. New participants this year include Russian Railways and Vietnam Railways.
According to UIC statistics, level crossings account for around 1% of road deaths in Europe, but 28% of all rail fatalities. FRA reports that there were around 250 fatalities at the USA’s 210 000 crossings last year. ILCAD co-ordinator Isabelle Fonverne says that while the majority of incidents can be attributed to misuse of the crossing by motorists or pedestrians, ‘there is a popular and widespread misconception that level crossing incidents are a railway problem’.
Speaking on behalf of Australasia's TrackSAFE Foundation, ARA Chief Executive Brian Nye said 'this impressive initiative brings global attention to level crossing safety, which continues to be one of the rail industry’s major safety concerns'.
While the most effective way to reduce the number of accidents is to close all level crossings, this is not always practical, so ILCAD encourages both education and enforcement. Education highlights the risks and makes people aware of the potential consequences if they do not follow the rules of the road, while enforcement follows up to deal with persistent or blatant misuse.
A centrepiece of this year’s event is a round table in Lisboa, hosted by Portuguese infrastructure manager REFER, with a specific focus on the education of ‘professional’ drivers operating school buses, coaches, taxis, vans, tractors, lorries and even emergency vehicles. Operation Lifesaver Inc President Joyce Rose welcomed this year's focus, noting that 'approximately one in four crossing collisions in the USA includes a vehicle driven by professional drivers'.
Last year’ conference was hosted by UNECE in Genève as part of the UN Global Road Safety Week, with a special emphasis on young people and the potential for distraction from using mobile phones and other devices near level crossings.