Get off autopilot at level crossings


A new campaign targeted at improving driver awareness at rail level crossings has been installed at Lindsay Road, Waipukurau. The ‘Expect a train’ campaign aims to get local drivers off “autopilot’” when crossing rural rail tracks.

The campaign includes a locomotive-sized billboard and other approach warning signs placed near the level crossings. The billboard and signs act as a visual reminder for drivers to slow down and check for real trains before they cross the tracks.

Like many rural level crossings, the Lindsay Road level crossing is protected by Stop signs only, without flashing lights, bells or barrier arms. Local drivers who use the level crossing frequently can become complacent about stopping, and previous experience is that they don’t normally come across a train.

Debbie Despard, Rail Safety Manager from the NZ Transport Agency says “Local drivers often don’t perceive the risk of rural level crossings to be very high, and this complacency can lead to risky behaviour like failing to carefully look for trains before crossing rail tracks.

We really want drivers in rural areas to sit up and take notice of level crossings and the life-sized train billboard should make them do just that.”

Research conducted to support the campaign indicated that local drivers can become overly familiar and complacent around level crossings and may cross the tracks without applying appropriate care.

“Services on rural train lines are usually infrequent so the majority of times local drivers cross at a level crossing, they see an empty track. This leads to a bit of autopilot behaviour where they fail to look properly in both directions to see if a train is coming,” says Ms Despard.

The ‘Expect a train’ campaign has been developed and funded by the Transport Agency, KiwiRail and TrackSafe. Waipukurau is the second location after the campaign launched in the Wairarapa in August this year as part of Rail Safety Week 2015.


The Lindsay Road level crossing has had two vehicle and train collisions in the last six years (one in 2013 resulting in serious injuries) and one near collision with a truck earlier this year. 

After approximately three months at the Lindsay Road site, the campaign will be progressively moved to a limited number of other high risk level crossing sites throughout New Zealand. These sites will be selected based on their history of collisions and near collisions in recent years.

47% of the 1,320 public road level crossings on KiwiRail’s network are protected by Give Way or Stop signs, with the remainder protected by a combination of bells, alarms and barriers. There are also 1,300 level crossings on private land that are mostly rural and are protected by Give Way or Stop signs.