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Incidents and statistics

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in its Monograph of Level Crossing Accidents reviewed 87 fatal crashes at level crossings nationally between 1988 and 1998 and found:

  • Level crossing crashes made up no more than 1per cent of fatal road crashes in any one year
  • The point of impact was more often the front of the train rather than the side (66 per cent)
  • Most of the accidents occurred in daylight (83 per cent)
  • Most occurred in fine weather (85 per cent) i.e. a dry road
  • Most occurred on a straight (89 per cent) and level (77 per cent) road
  • Most occurred in a rural area (67per cent)
  • Most occurred at level crossings with active protection (51 per cent - 10 per cent with boom gates and 41 per cent another type of active warning system)
  • Drivers over the age of 60 were over-represented in level crossing crashes than in other fatal road crashes (26 per cent compared to 10 per cent).

Unintended driver error was more common in level crossing crashes than in other fatal road crashes (46 per cent compared with 22 per cent of other fatal road crashes). The influence of alcohol or drugs was less common as was the influence of excessive speed.

Causal Factors Fatal level crossing crashes Other fatal road crashes
Adverse weather or road conditions 13% 9%
Alcohol / drugs 9% 31%
Fatigue 3% 8%
Driver error (unintended) 46% 22%
Excessive speed 7% 23%
Other risk taking 3% 5%

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator

  • ONRSR administers rail safety by ensuring rail operators have safety management systems that effectively manage risks and focus on improving safety culture. ONRSR does this through accrediting rail operators and conducting audits and compliance inspections. ONRSR identifies and alerts the rail industry to potential safety issues. ONRSR's role includes the collection, reporting and research of accident data and can include the investigation of accidents at level crossings.
  • The Office of Transport Safety & Investigation (OTSI) may also investigate level crossing incidents to identify the contributory factors to an accident and make recommendations to prevent its recurrence.

As the following charts indicate, statistical analysis provided by ONRSR of level crossing accidents over recent years continues to indicate a general trend downwards.

In 2015/16, no fatalities were recorded resulting from collisions between trains and pedestrians at level crossings in NSW. One fatality was recorded resulting from a collision between a train and a road vehicle. There were six crashes between a train and road vehicle during the year, two at crossings with passive controls, two at crossings with active controls, and two at uncontrolled crossings. Overall, the number of crashes between a train and a road vehicle has decreased over the past 26 years in NSW. Figure 1 through to Figure 4 show the number of collisions and fatalities at level crossings from 1989/90 to 2015/16.

Figure 1 – Train Collision with Road Vehicle at Level Crossing, 1989/90 to 2015/16 in NSW

Train to road vehicle collisions in NSW 1989/90 to 2015/16

Figure 2 – Fatalities: Train Colliding with Road Vehicles at Level Crossing, 1989/90 to 2015/16 in NSW


Train to road vehicle fatalities in NSW 1989/90 to 2015/16

Figure 3 – Train Colliding with Person at Level Crossing, 1989/90 to 2015/16 in NSW

Train to person collisions in NSW 1989/90 to 2015/16

Figure 4 – Fatalities: Train Colliding with Person at Level Crossing, 1989/90 to 2015/16 in NSW

Train to person fatalities in NSW 1989/90 to 2015/16

Source: The Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSR).

Further information on level crossing accidents and rail safety reform is available from the ONRSR website.

The Staysafe Committee issued two follow-up reports in 2006/07 and 2009.

Office of Transport Safety Investigations

The OTSI is an independent NSW agency whose purpose is to improve transport safety by investigating accidents and incidents in the rail, bus and ferry industries. OTSI reports on level crossing incidents in NSW can be found on its website at Office of Transport Safety Investigations.

NSW Parliamentary Staysafe Committee

  • The Staysafe (Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety) is a joint standing committee established in 1982 to investigate and report on road safety matters in NSW. Its terms of reference include reviewing ways to reduce the number and severity of road crashes and monitoring the actions taken to address the social and economic consequences of road trauma.
  • In 2001, the Minister for Transport announced the Staysafe inquiry into level crossing safety. The NSW Level Crossing Strategy Council (LCSC) submission was given to the inquiry in August of that year.
  • The Staysafe inquiry sought public submissions, held public hearings and carried out a number of level crossing site inspections in conjunction with LCSC members and delegates.

The final report for the Staysafe inquiry was released in October 2004. The Government supported the majority of recommendations in that report and their implementation is monitored by the LCSC. Staysafe issued a follow-up report in 2009.

Last updated: 17 March 2017