Rail level crossings

Any crash that occurs when a motor vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian collides with a train or tram results in major trauma. Research has shown that the major cause of crashes at railway level crossings is road user behaviour. This is largely attributable to inattention, driver distraction, risk taking and disobeying the road rules.

Risk taking at level crossings, whether you are a motorist, cyclist or a pedestrian, is hazardous. Actions like queuing at level crossings, not expecting or looking for a second train, not paying attention to the level crossing signs or signals, running warning lights and evading boom gates can result in serious injury or death.

Investigations conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have found in almost every case that the motorist failed to stop and give way to the train at the level crossing and that there was little the train driver could do to prevent the collision or minimise its effects.

There are 710 pedestrian and road level crossings on active lines in South Australia. Many are equipped with active controls such as flashing lights and boom gates but some will only have passive signs such as stop signs/give way signs.  Regardless of the level of safety warning devices, level crossings must be approached with care at all times.

Trains can travel at up to 110 km/h and it may take over a kilometre to stop a train once the brake is applied.

Know when to cross the line

The Know when to cross the line campaign is aimed at combating irresponsible and dangerous behaviours around level crossings and pedestrian mazes that lead to injuries and fatalities.

Motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists are urged to observe the yellow/white line markings on the road, and on footpaths and platforms, road signage, boom gates, and warning bells and lights, and take responsibility for their actions wherever a road meets a railway line.

Be aware that trains and trams:

  • travel in both directions
  • can be on any respective line, at any time
  • are deceptively fast and quiet
  • cannot swerve to avoid you
  • can take a long distance to stop - they cannot stop suddenly.

It is illegal to enter a level crossing while the lights are flashing or warning bells operating. Red light cameras operate at a number of Adelaide level crossings.

When crossing train or tram tracks, always:

  • wait until the lights and bells stop and the boom gates (if fitted) go up.  If the boom gates stay down and the bells keep ringing it means that there is another train coming, usually from the opposite direction.  Wait until you can see that the tracks are clear IN BOTH DIRECTIONS before crossing
  • wheelchairs, prams and strollers should always cross the rails at right angles to the track so that the wheels don't get trapped
  • bikes, rollerblades, skates or skateboards must be walked or carried on station platforms, on the ramps leading up to platforms, through pedestrian mazes, while crossing rail lines, in overpasses or underpasses
  • it is illegal to climb down onto tracks or walk on rail tracks at any time, except when you are crossing the tracks at a designated crossing place or a pedestrian maze.

Never queue over a level crossing. Not for any reason. Ever. Drivers should ensure that there is a full vehicle length between their vehicle and the one in front of them before they drive across a level crossing.

Speed

Trains and trams move quickly but quietly. Trains have a maximum travel speed of 110 km/h and the maximum travel speed for trams is 60 km/h.

It is very difficult to judge how fast trains and trams are travelling. Most people are used to judging safe crossing distances where cars are concerned and these are often only travelling at 60 km/h.

Always make sure that BOTH rail lines are clear for a long distance before crossing at a pedestrian maze.

Visibility

From their driving seat, train drivers cannot see clearly to the left or to the right of the tracks on which their train is travelling. They also cannot see people or objects that are on the tracks directly in front of the train.

Even if the train driver can see you, he or she cannot immediately stop the train.  An Adelaide Metro train travelling at 90 km/h on a dry track needs about 420 metres to stop. This distance is over twice the length of a football oval. The driver will probably not see someone close to the track and, if they could, it would certainly be too late to stop the train and avoid impact.When you see white lights on a train or tram it's coming towards you. When you see red lights, it's travelling away from you … just the same as a motor vehicle.

More information

  • For more information on the signs and signals and the road rules that apply to level crossings please refer to the Crossings section in The Driver's Handbook.
  • Refer to the Safer Driving Tips on the website www.mylicence.sa.gov.au

How can we improve safety at railway crossings?

Tell us what you think. Read our Draft Railway Crossing Safety Strategy and take our 5 minute survey to have your say. More details on our Railway level crossing safety strategy page

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