Near miss prompts New Zealand to issue severe warning to pedestrians
Authorities in Auckland, New Zealand, are urging pedestrians to pay closer attention at crossings after a number of near misses due to how quiet the new electric trains are.
Auckland Transport released footage of a woman narrowly escaping being hit by a fast moving train after she only looked one way before venturing across the tracks. The woman starts crossing at the Mount Eden station, despite warning lights flashing and signalling the direction from which the train is coming, noticing the oncoming train in the nick of time and avoiding being struck.
The city’s transport authority released the footage to remind pedestrians that the new electric trains are quieter than the traditional diesel ones, meaning extra attention must be paid when crossing.
“We’ve checked the footage of this morning’s incident and we can see the woman checked to her right before crossing but not to her left and that’s where the train was coming from,” Auckland Transport Tail Services manager Craig Inger said.
“It’s really important that you check both directions before crossing, a train can come from either direction. You can’t be using your phone or have earphones on because you might miss the warning lights or bells.”
The phenomenon of pedestrians walking around with their gaze stuck on screens rather than their surroundings, known as ‘smartphone zombies’, has become a major headache for city planners around the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least 10% of the 78,000 pedestrian injuries in the US in 2012 were blamed on mobile device distraction.
The increased risk has seen at least two cities in Europe embed traffic lights into the ground in the hope of keeping pedestrians from harm; in Bodegraven in the Netherlands earlier this year, LED light strips were placed at major crossings near three schools, while the German city of Augsburg launched a similar pilot scheme in 2016.
New Zealand has a poor safety record when it comes to railway tracks, tunnels, and bridges, with more than 100 fatalities in the last decade.
“Most railway deaths are preventable if people follow basic safety rules around tracks and trains – only ever cross railway tracks at formed level crossings and obey the signs and signals that are there to protect you,” said Megan Drayton of TrackSAFE.
“Trains are extremely fast and quiet, they can’t swerve to avoid a person or object on the tracks. The best the train driver can do is put on the emergency brakes and hope for the best.”