Police ‘amazed’ by risk-taking

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Pedestrians and motorists are risking life and limb at a Temuka railway crossing and staff at the nearby police station have seen some of the many near-misses.
Senior Constable Tim Easton said he had seen many pedestrians and motorists cross the railway tracks despite ringing alarm bells and flashing lights.
Snr Const Easton first spoke out about the problem three years ago and said hair-raising acts were as common today as they were then.
‘‘It is still happening. I guess people don’t appreciate trains can’t stop on a dime.
‘‘People are stupid.’’
This week is Rail Safety Week, which marks the launch of a campaign aimed at reminding people to stay alert and cross carefully at railway crossings.
The campaign has a specific focus on people walking across railway tracks while listening to music or looking at an electronic device such as a cellphone.
‘‘In the nine years I’ve been in Temuka, I’m definitely amazed at how people just risk their lives,’’ Snr Const Easton said. ‘‘I’ve seen one girl — she would have been about 25ish — walking across the tracks with her headphones in, listening to music.
‘‘She was completely unaware a train was coming.
‘‘It was only because of the speed she was walking at that she was able to avoid it. She was walking fast.’’
Snr Const Easton said the girl was spoken to by police and ‘‘was a little embarrassed when it was pointed out to her’’.
Tracksafe manager Megan Drayton said people forgot that when they approached a crossing they were taking a risk.
Complacency and distractions such as cellphones and headphones meant people often failed to consciously check for trains, she said.
In some cases people were not distracted, simply not concentrating.
Snr Const Easton said in one example he saw an elderly man walk
across the tracks in front of a train, which missed hitting him by about one metre.
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said this year’s rail safety campaign had been developed as a result of an increasing trend in incidents involving pedestrians, particularly at urban crossings.
‘‘What we are seeing, from data from collisions and near collisions, as well as reports from our train drivers and CCTV footage, is that people are failing to take due care when crossing at level crossings.
‘‘Sometimes people cross the tracks after a train has passed but while the alarms are still operating. What they don’t seem to realise is that there is often a train coming from the other direction.’’
Pedestrians were not the only people risking their lives at Temuka’s railway crossings. Motorists were notorious for cutting it fine, both at Domain Ave and Richard Pearse Dr crossings, Snr Const Easton said.
He was concerned people would drive or walk across the tracks when they could see a train sitting idle, despite the bells ringing.
‘‘If the bells are ringing and there’s a train stationary, that doesn’t mean it’s the only train.’’