There were a total of 48 near misses between trains and vehicles at level crossings between 2020 and 2021, according to research by Škoda UK, with a further 621 misuse incidents where a vehicle crossed when it was unsafe.* Škoda Auto is currently trialling new safety technology that warns drivers of approaching trains to reduce the risk of accidents at level crossings.
Between 2011 and 2021, there were 992 near misses between trains and road vehicles at level crossings on the mainline network in Britain, according to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), with an average of 99 near misses per year. Prior to the pandemic, there were 75 recorded incidents between 2019 and 2020, and 2018 to 2019.
Furthermore, there were 8,264 instances of vehicles misusing level crossings in Britain by crossing them when it was unsafe, over a seven-year period between 2014 and 2021.* An average of 1,181 motorists per year drive through level crossings in Britain when it is unsafe, with 621 incidents recorded from 2020 to 2021, and 1,015 from 2019 to 2020.
Škoda is piloting innovative train warning software with Czech railway company Leo Express. Real-time train locations are regularly transmitted to the cloud, which Škoda utilises to communicate this information to any vehicle using the Traffication infotainment app near a level crossing when a train is approaching. The warning about the approaching train is shown on the central infotainment display along with a warning spoken audibly, informing the driver to stop.
There are nearly 6,000 level crossings in Britain, however only a third feature some form of alert to warn drivers of an approaching train, according to Network Rail. A freedom of information request by Škoda UK also found there were four collisions between trains and road vehicles at level crossings in Britain in the past year (2021-2022).
In the UK, drivers can face a minimum fixed penalty fine of £60 along with three penalty points if they disregard level crossing regulations. If a driver stops on a level crossing or drives around the barriers, this can be considered dangerous or careless driving and result in an escalated fine and a 12-month driving ban.
The Škoda Traffication app aims to be a further warning for drivers who may have missed road signs leading up to a level crossing.
Škoda is currently piloting the software in the Czech Republic and is already working on integrating other railway companies across Europe.
The new feature is part of the Škoda Traffication infotainment app which provides real-time alerts when drivers encounter nearby traffic hazards. The app is available in all current Škoda models apart from the Enyaq iV, provided the car is equipped with the latest MIB-3 infotainment system.
The Traffication app already warns drivers in the UK of severe weather, motorists driving the wrong way against the flow of traffic, and bad road conditions or nearby accidents without needing to enter a destination. The app will run automatically once the car starts. Advanced warnings can also be provided by and to other Škoda cars using cloud technology to improve customers’ driving experiences. Poor visibility can be identified by other Škoda drivers switching the fog lights on, while drivers can manually report traffic hazards to warn other Škoda drivers in the UK.