The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is reminding all road users to be aware of their surroundings and avoid distractions when approaching level crossings.
Rail Safety Week 2023’s theme, ‘Expect the unexpected – watch out for trains’, aims to positively influence driver behaviour by increasing their awareness of taking safe actions at level crossings.
“Given the size and weight of most trains, the onus to take action to avoid a level crossing collision rests almost entirely on the road user,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Mr Angus Mitchell said.
“A moment of distraction while driving or riding can significantly impair safety, and can lead to serious injuries or have fatal consequences.”
Last year, the ATSB published a final report into a 2021 collision between a truck and freight train 2C74 at the Yarri Road level crossing, Parkeston, north-east of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The investigation found the truck driver had been distracted when reaffixing their mobile phone mount to their vehicle’s windscreen before the truck entered an active level crossing. Unable to stop, the train collided with the truck, derailing the train and seriously injuring the two train drivers.
“The crossing design where this collision occurred was consistent with the applicable Australian standard and provided sufficient opportunity for attentive drivers to identify the level crossing controls and stop their vehicle,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Because of the effects of distraction, the truck driver was probably only looking at the section of road directly ahead of their vehicle, contributing to them not identifying the red flashing lights until it was too late to stop.”
The investigation noted the truck driver was familiar with the route they were driving and had never encountered a train at that level crossing. This low expectancy of encountering a train possibly contributed to a reduced level of attention being given when approaching the crossing.
“This avoidable collision caused some very serious injuries to the two train drivers as well as some significant damage to the locomotives and rail infrastructure,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Our safety message is simple and clear – slow down when approaching a level crossing and obey the traffic control signs. And always, expect the unexpected – watch out for trains.”