Level crossings failure to comply with the Highway Code is the main cause of accidents

Rome, 7 June 2018

Failure to comply with the Highway Code and the adoption of incorrect behaviour are the main cause of accidents occurring near level crossings.

Motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, often unruly or distracted by smartphones and electronic devices, underestimate the risks associated with crossing a level crossing, in the process of closing or already closed, endangering their lives and that of other motorists.

There were 27 accidents at level crossings in 2017, with six deaths and four injuries. A slight increase compared to 2016, when there were 21 accidents, with five dead and five injured.

This type of accident, rarely imputable to the railway system, depends mostly on a failure to comply with the Highway Code (article 147), but can also be blamed on haste and erratic habitual behaviour. It is in this context that the tenth edition of ILCAD (International Level Crossing Awareness Day), the international campaign of information and sensitization surrounding level crossings, promoted by the Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer (UIC) takes on strategic importance.

The over 40 countries taking part in the event-day scheduled in Zagreb this year (Croatia) have chosen to address the issue by focusing on the younger generation, often involved in level crossing incidents.

"The FS Group strongly adheres to the UIC Campaign. It is important to make European citizens aware of the dangers of level crossings and of the importance of respecting the rules for correct crossing. This year more so, given that we are talking to young generations, often the protagonists of accidents that have at their root cause distractions from the use of smartphones or earbuds. The FS Italiane Group has been committed for years to spreading the culture of safety at every level so that nobody can endanger their lives and that of others. Moreover, about twenty years ago we started a plan to eliminate level crossings and on those that are still active we are installing the latest generation technologies to mitigate the effects of non-compliance to the rules. The objective is always the safety of the railway system as a whole ".


Young people aged between 15 and 35, today increasingly "connected" often underestimate the risks of crossing tracks with closed barriers. The aim of the ILCAD 2018 campaign is therefore to inform and sensitize these new generations about the safe behaviours to adopt near intersections with railway lines:

  • cross only when the barriers are completely raised;
  • stop when the barriers are closing;
  • wait for the re-opening of the barriers;
  • do not climb over or pass under the barriers when they are closed;
  • do not lift the barriers when they are lowered;
  • respect road signs and traffic lights that protect level crossings;
  • scrupulously observe the rules of the Highway Code (article 147) including, for example, the obligation to clear the level crossing, even breaking down a barrier if necessary.

A new technology, the Integrated Automatic Protection System - Level Crossings (PAI-PL), is being installed on level crossings for which an agreement has not yet been reached with local authorities for their dismantling. The PAI-PL detects the presence of encumbrances on the tracks near the barriers, pre or following the closure of the level crossing, and immediately blocks the rail traffic until the obstruction is completely cleared.

Focusing on Italy, the national railway network - 16,787 km long - has 4,518 level crossings (data for 2017), of which 812 are entrusted directly to private individuals. Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, the national infrastructure Manager, is involved in the plan to eliminate level crossings, to be replaced with alternatives. All new railway lines are built without level crossings.

In 2017, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana removed 102 crossings between road and rail, of which 69 were managed by private individuals, with a total investment of about 60 million euros.

In 2018 RFI plans to eliminate another 125 level crossings, of which 86 are managed by private individuals. The investment allocated is around 100 million euros.

These interventions are financed by the State with special funds and agreed with local authorities (Regions, Provinces and Municipalities) and other bodies such as Anas. Furthermore, in each region, additional crossings will be eliminated and automated as part of infrastructural and technological upgrading programs.