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Massive billboards that look like trains are to be placed at railway crossings to prompt drivers to slow down and check for trains.

The New Zealand Transport Agency awareness campaign launches on the first day of Rail Safety Week today.

The rural level crossing in Carterton is the first site for the life-sized signage, before it is moved to other high risk level crossing sites throughout the country.

Rural and semi-rural crossings are being targeted.

Chief executive of NZTA Geoff Dangerfield said the campaign was based on research undertaken late last year which indicated that local drivers in rural areas were often complacent, especially around level crossings controlled by stop and give way signs.

“Local drivers often don’t perceive the risk of rural crossings to be high, and this complacency can lead to risky behaviour like failing to carefully look for trains before proceeding over a level crossing.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges will tomorrow morning launch the Expect Trains campaign at the Wellington Railway Station as part of Rail Safety Week.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said this year’s campaign is a multi-agency initiative aimed at reducing incidents and preventing harm.

“Every year people die in preventable accidents on railway tracks. We are reminding people that their own awareness and responsible behaviour is the key to keeping themselves and their children safe around railway tracks.

“Collisions and near misses cause severe and lasting trauma for everyone involved.

“This includes victims, their families, emergency services personnel and witnesses, and our train drivers and rail staff. ”

TrackSAFE manager Megan Drayton said other research has shown that people are unable to accurately judge the speed and distance of an oncoming train and often perceive trains to be travelling slower than they actually are.

“This is why it’s really important for people to follow basic safety rules at any level crossing. When people see a railway level crossing sign they must slow down and be prepared to stop. Look up and down both ways and only cross when there are no trains coming from either direction.

“People need to treat a railway level crossing in the same way as they would a road intersection – always obey the flashing lights and bells, or the Give Way or Stop signs at the level crossing.”

Rail Safety Week is coordinated by KiwiRail in partnership with TrackSAFE NZ, NZTA, police, Auckland Transport, Transdev Auckland, the Greater Wellington

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11494697