HUNDREDS of drivers are dicing with death by ignoring warning signs and lights or weaving round barriers at level crossings.
New figures revealed by Network Rail show that there have already been 13 collisions between road vehicles and trains this year. The warning comes as Network Rail launches a new hard-hitting TV and radio advertising campaign that illustrates in graphic detail the tragic consequences of misusing level crossings by both motorists and pedestrians.
Several of the 188 level crossings in the Midlands, including Bentley Heath in Mill Lane, have seen near misses with pedestrians running red lights and motorists swerving around barriers.
Philip Pantani lives just a few doors away from the Bentley Heath crossing and has had first hand experience of pedestrians trying to beat the barriers. The-17 year-old Solihull Sixth Form student said: "I was in my best friend's car coming home from a party. He saw one of the guys he worked with just as we passed the level crossing and stopped to talk to him. The guy saw the lights change and he ran across the track as the barriers were coming down. Personally I don't trust the line anymore now its just machines - the signal man has gone. I'm learning to drive and it just takes the machines to be wrong once."
Neighbour Joanne Higgs, a nursery nurse, added: "The signal man left approximately six months ago and since that I've noticed that the barriers are definitely down more than before. They are constantly down now."
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "Level crossings are safe, but tragically it is unsafe driver behaviour that causes accidents and deaths.
"Between January and September this year there were 2,636 incidents of misuse at Britain's level crossings. But these were the only ones recorded; the true figure is much higher. There were nearly 900 incidents involving a vehicle, 128 were categorised as a 'near miss'.Pedestrians too are running the risk at level crossings, with over 200 near misses this year."