Mind that railway crossing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristopher Levasseur
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For many Liberty Warriors, driving in England is a new experience. From learning to drive on the left hand side of the road to understanding new road signs and highway codes, it can be difficult to get the hang of.

One obstacle new drivers to the U.K. should consider is the higher concentration of railway crossings and the potential driving hazard they pose.

"In 2004, 11 people were killed in level crossing collisions in the U.K., including seven in vehicle collisions, three pedestrians and one cyclist," said Staff Sgt. Scott Richard, 48th Fighter Wing ground safety craftsmen. "These are fatalities that could easily have been avoided."

Personnel stationed at RAF Lakenheath are required to attend traffic safety briefings where they learn everything from round-a-bout procedures to railway crossings.

"Every person who comes here from the U.S. receives a highway code book, an extensive three-hour presentation and a test that is equivalent to the national driver's test, which familiarizes people with national laws, customs and courtesies," said Angelina Quamina, base INTRO Program manager. "For additional driving instruction, everyone under the age of 26 will also receive a one-hour course with an official British driving instructor and hands on driving training to familiarize themselves with local driving conditions."

According to Sergeant Richard, the concept is the same as train crossings in the U.S. besides the different signs to mark the railway. When a train is approaching, stop the vehicle behind the barrier and wait for the train to proceed.

"Drivers, bike riders and pedestrians (here) are going thru the crossing when the lights are flashing and the gates are not fully down," said Sergeant Richard. "Level crossing collisions are usually caused by inattention or by drivers becoming impatient or ignoring warning signs and signals."

Here are some good tips for drivers at a railway crossing: 

- Always check that the railway line is clear before crossing. 

- Never start to cross if the lights are flashing, bells are ringing or barrier arms are lowered. 

- Never cross a railway crossing unless there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle. 

- Never overtake a vehicle that has stopped for a train. 

- Never try to race the train over the crossing.

"The safety rules are in place for good reason and they should be followed at all times," said Sergeant Richard. "The facts are simple; trains have the right of way, they take a long time to stop and they can't swerve to avoid a collision. The consequence for not following the rules is simple, death."