Haste and distraction as the main causes of death

Rome, 6 June 2019

In 2018, the number of accidents at level crossings diminished by 64% in respect of the year prior.

Indeed, there were only nine accidents in 2018, compared to 28 in 2017. Overall, there were four deaths and twenty people injured. Amongst these, one death and all persons wounded were connected to a truck colliding with a train in Caluso (23 May 2018). In 2017, rather, there were six deaths.

Haste and distraction still remain the main causes of accidents at level crossings, despite the decreasing numbers.

The objective of the FS Italiane Group – also this year taking part in ILCAD (International Level Crossing Awareness Day), the campaign providing information and raising awareness about level crossings promoted by the Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer (UIC) – is to gradually reduce the number of accidents and fatalities at level crossings to zero.

“The most important stop of the day” is the slogan chosen for the 11th edition of the day-event scheduled today in Amersfoort (Holland). The 40+ countries participating have chosen to address the topic by this year focusing on road hauliers and drivers of heavy vehicles.

Accidents at level crossings, rarely attributable to the railway system, are mainly due to a lack of compliance with the Traffic Laws (Article 147), to haste, distraction and bad behaviour. Fatigue, stress, high speed, alcohol or drug abuse are other factors.

Motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, often acting in a reckless way or distracted by smartphones or electronic devices, underestimate the risks associated with traversing at a level crossing when closing or closed, jeopardising their own lives, the lives of other road users and those travelling on the trains.

Simultaneously, the plan to eliminate level crossings drafted by the Italian Railway Network continues. Throughout 2019, RFI is aiming to abolish an additional 120 level crossings - of which 85 concern private corporations - and to complete works totalling some 60 million euro.

In 2018, 101 road/rail crossings were eliminated, 87 of which consigned to private companies. This averages more than one elimination every four days, with an economic investment of about 72 million euro.

Today, the national railway network – with over 16,700 km in tracks - is intersected by 4,427 level crossings, of which 653 are being handed over to private users. In the early 1990s, there were more than 12,000 level crossings operating throughout the national territory.

Thus, in the last twenty years, approximately 8,000 road and railway crossings have been eliminated, with an economic investment from the Italian Railway Network of approximately 1,5 billion euro. The measures are financed by the state and arranged with the regions, provinces, municipalities and entities that manage the services, such as ANAS.

All new railway lines are completed without level crossings.

The plan to eliminate level crossings is just one of the actions initiated by the FS Italiane Group – in line with the 2019-2023 Industrial Plan – to improve safety for the railway and road traffic. In fact, the operational plan includes the maintenance activities and technological upgrade of the control mechanisms that regulate the level crossing systems. Almost all - about 95% - of the current 3,774 level crossings are managed directly by RFI are equipped with advanced technological systems to render them more reliable and secure, including the Protezione Automatica Integrativa - Passaggi a Livello (PAI-PL, being the Integrated Automatic Protection System - Level Crossings).

PAI-PL detects the presence of obstructions on the railways in proximity of the barriers, prior to or following the closure of the level crossing, and stops the train until the issue is resolved. The automation of further level crossings is planned within the framework of the infrastructure and technological development programmes of each region.

Truck and heavy vehicle drivers often underestimate the risks due to inadequate training or a lack of information on the potential hazards and consequences of a possible impact with a train.

This year, the UIC has thus decided to ask professional drivers to pay the utmost attention when traversing level crossings.

The purpose of the ILCAD campaign is to inform and raise the awareness amongst all (pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, motorists, transport operators) on the safe behaviour to adopt around intersections with railway lines, including:

  • Only cross when the barriers are completely raised;
  • Stop when the bars are closing;
  • Wait for the barriers to be re-opened;
  • Do not climb over or go beneath the barriers when they are closed;
  • Do not lift the barriers when lowered;
  • Respect the traffic signs and lights protecting the level crossings;
  • Strictly observe the Traffic Laws (Article 147) including, for example, the obligation to remove any obstacle even by breaking down a barrier when necessary.