A couple of months ago Auckland Transport posted a video of a near miss near Mt Eden station.
It seems fairly easy to conclude from the video that the primary responsibility for this near fatal accident lies with the pedestrian. AT emphasised this in the accompanying press release:
The near miss happened when the woman stepped out at a crossing despite the warning bells and lights operating…
“We’ve checked the footage of this morning’s incident and we can see the woman checked to her right before crossing but not to her left and that’s where the train was coming from.
AT then goes on to say it’s disturbing that a number of other people crossed before the woman, even though the lights were on and the bells were sounding.
”The lights and bells mean don’t cross. You can’t be using your phone or have earphones on because you might miss the warning lights or bells.”
However, as the NZTA pointed out in their recent road safety ad campaign, we all make mistakes.
And given that we all make mistakes, it is a fairly harsh and unforgiving rail safety design principle that pedestrians are injured or killed if they are distracted, looking at the ground, looking the wrong way or wearing headphones.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be reminding people about the dangers of being distracted. Following the tragic death of their son, Karamea Matthes and her husband were on the AM show yesterday urging people to “keep an ear out” for trains. As she says, everyone’s got a device and people are wearing headphones more and more.
Yet the inference from Auckland Transport’s media release is that pedestrian crossings are safe enough as long as everyone follows the rules and they don’t any make mistakes. Nowhere in the story does Auckland Transport mention that any work is underway to make this particular crossing, or others, safer.
As you can see from the video, if the pedestrian stepped out at the crossing despite the warning bells and lights operating, then this indicates that the warning bells and lights are ineffective at alerting distracted, mistake-prone pedestrians to the oncoming danger of an approaching train. Some immediate ideas that come to mind are gates that physically close, or led lighting strips on the ground.
In March of this year, Kiwirail sponsored workshops in Auckland and Wellington on making pedestrian level crossings safer. This apparently led to a trial for vehicle crossings in rural areas, but my subsequent enquiries to Kiwirail and Auckland Transport have drawn a blank as to what is happening with improving the numerous pedestrian crossings in Auckland. If you know anything further about this feel free to add to the comments.