More than two drivers per week risking lives with trains
ALARMING new statistics show 141 motorists - more than two per week - risked their lives by running the gauntlet and colliding with level crossing boom gates on the Queensland Rail network last year.
Queensland Rail has released the statistics after obtaining shocking new dash cam footage showing a truck ignoring the warning signals and colliding with and detaching a boom gate at a level crossing on Hugh Street, Townsville.
The footage also captures motorists at another nearby level crossing dangerously proceeding while the red lights were still flashing.
Queensland Rail general manager corporate and customer relations Rebecca Masci said this behaviour was not only extremely dangerous, but also illegal.
"Like running a red traffic light, motorists can face a $330 fine and three demerit points for ignoring level crossing protection, including boom gates, flashing lights and stop signs," Ms Masci said.
"Motorists who damage boom gates and other level crossing infrastructure can also be fined up to $8800 in addition to the repair bill.
"Level crossing protection is in place for a reason and if you ignore the warnings, you are not only endangering your own life but also that of train operators, passengers and other road users.
"Both passenger and freight trains run on the Queensland Rail network, some of which can move at speeds of up to 160 kilometres an hour, and they can't swerve to avoid someone.
"The only option for train drivers is to apply the emergency brake, and what many people don't realise is that trains - particularly express or freight trains - can sometimes take more than a kilometre to stop.
"While we are committed to level crossing safety through investment in education, engineering upgrades, innovations and working with police on enforcement, it's up to road users to do their part by simply obeying the signs and signals which are in place."
Ms Masci said in 2014, this type of foolish, avoidable behaviour also proved frustrating for thousands of train customers with more than 500 trains impacted by boom gate strikes in South East Queensland alone.
"With drivers continually taking risks at level crossings, last year we took action to limit the impact to our customers and keep our network moving when a boom gate strike occurs.
"Our new procedures now allow trains to safely pass through level crossings if a boom gate strike occurs, provided all other signs and signals are operational."
Breakdown of level crossing boom gate strikes on the Queensland Rail network in the 2013 & 2014 calendar years: