R2012-S1 Safety Study on Level Crossing Accidents 2012
In 2012, a total of 51 level crossing accidents occurred. This is around 30 per cent higher than the average for the previous five years.
All of the accidents leading to serious personal injury occurred on the railways, where the average speed of railway vehicles is usually high (80–140 km/h). Six people died in the five fatal accidents. Six people were seriously injured.
Over a third of the accidents occurred during shunting work, where the speed of railway vehicles is usually low (35 km/h at maximum). The majority of shunting work related accidents occurred in harbour and industrial areas.
In one fifth of the accidents, a motor vehicle collided with the side of a railway vehicle. No personal injuries were sustained in these accidents. In most of the side collisions, the accident was caused by a vehicle sliding on a slippery road surface. The highest number of accidents occurred in December.
One third of the accidents that occurred at passive level crossings occurred at level crossings equipped with a STOP sign. In half of these cases, the driver of the vehicle failed to heed the STOP sign's obligation to stop. The valid guidelines do not unambiguously determine the use of STOP signs at level crossings.
For accidents that occurred at level crossings without warning devices and a STOP sign, 75 per cent of these accidents were caused by the vehicle driver's failure to properly observe or assess the scene, while 20 per cent were caused by too high a speed and the resulting slide on the tracks despite attempts to brake.
In 2012, a total of 114 permanent level crossings were removed from Finland's main railway lines. The majority of these removals and safety measures were related to increased speed limits on these railway line sections. No funds are separately budgeted for the removal and safeguarding of level crossings. By the end of 2012, there were a total of 3,581 level crossings in Finland, 78 per cent of which did not feature warning devices.
The Safety Investigation Authority gives one new recommendation for the improvement of safety in the future: SIA recommends that the Finnish Transport Safety Agency enables the implementation of low-cost warning devices and ensures that the Finnish Transport Agency continues its research into the suitability of low-cost warning devices and begins implementing these devices.
In addition, SIA reiterates two recommendations issued previously:
- S309: A new strategy should be drawn up to improve level crossing safety, and a concrete plan with funding arrangements should be drafted based on this strategy.
- S315: Clear instructions should be drawn up regarding road traffic speed limits and use of the STOP sign at level crossings.