Drivers playing Russian roulette

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 08:56 11/08/2014
Ralph Kyte-Powell
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ
DANGER SPOT: The tracks near the Main St roundabout are inspected after a woman was hit by a train last week.

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Drivers going across train tracks at Blenheim's busiest roundabout are risking their lives and the lives of others when they drive through flashing red lights, according to the Marlborough Road Safety Council.

To coincide with the beginning of Rail Safety Week, which starts today, the council conducted surveys on Friday and Saturday to monitor driver behaviour at the level crossing at the Main St roundabout.

On both occasions, two drivers went over the level crossing after the flashing red lights started.

On Friday, four cars went over the tracks after the barriers had lifted but while the lights were still flashing, while five cars did the same on Saturday.

Marlborough Road Safety Council secretary Geoff Powell said he was surprised so many drivers crossed the tracks when a train was due.

"Anything could happen to a car - the car engine might suddenly stop," he said. "It's totally beyond their control."

People who went across the tracks when the lights were flashing were taking a risk, he said.

"It's a traumatic few seconds, a lot can happen in that short space of time."

He was amazed at the traffic flow on Main St at 2.30pm on Friday.

"It was huge - great trucks one after the other, coming perennially into town," he said.

"It's a very, very busy state highway."

He suspected many people might not be aware they had to stop as soon as the lights started flashing. Drivers could face a fine of $150 if they were caught going through red flashing lights at a level crossing, before and after the train came, he said.

"I'm quite certain some people would be ignorant about that," Powell said.

"People need to know exactly what sort of behaviour is expected of places like railway crossings because it all happens so quickly."

It took 36 seconds for a northbound train to reach the Main St roundabout due about 10.45am on Saturday after the red lights started flashing, a further six seconds after the train had passed the roundabout for the barrier arms to go up and another seven seconds after the arms were up for the lights to stop flashing.

In total, the lights were flashing for 1 minute and 36 seconds.

In the past 10 years, at least seven vehicles have collided with a train at a public level crossing in Blenheim, while a further seven pedestrians have been hit by a train.

A 60-year-old Blenheim woman remains in a serious condition in Wellington Hospital's Intensive Care Unit after she was hit by a train near the Main St roundabout on Tuesday last week.

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- The Marlborough Express

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