The three major rail companies in Estonia have issued a real-life video clip taken from on board trains, showing just how close to death some pedestrians have come when crossing rail lines recklessly, as well as how difficult those pedestrians are for drivers to see.
While the number of fatalities on the railways has fallen since 2018, at least to the first half of 2019, the number of incidents has risen, from 55 to 65, ERR's online Estonian news reports.
Eesti Raudtee, which operates railtrack in Estonia, and rail operators Elron and Edelaraudtee, issued the joint warning video and commented on the state of rail crossing safety and the need to educate the public.
"Based on rail accident statistics, we can see that the level of rail safety has improved year by year. However, while the number of tragic accidents has decreased this year, the number of potentially fatal accidents on the rail has increased significantly, many of which, we would particularly like to emphasize, have involved children," said Merike Saks, Elron board chair.
Many of these incidents, some of which are depicted in the clip above, relate to crossing the railway in a hurry, including in efforts to practically play chicken with a train, the use of smartphones and other distracting devices while crossing, and crossing at unsafe, non-designated places.
Erik Laidvee, Eesti Raudtee board chair, added that improving traffic culture through awareness of the dangers would help to improve the situation.
"The dangers need to be acknowledged by both adults and children, who are just starting to independently take part in traffic on their own," Laidvee said.
The companies also stress that while they do their utmost to create a safe rail crossing and traffic environment, it is actually the road user who plays a key role.
Paul Lukka, board member at Eesti Raudtee subsidiary and logistics firm Operail, said that no matter the type of train involved or its speed, no train is able to stop in time in such situations, so it is first and foremost the responsibility of the public to avoid danger near the tracks.
"A freight train with a full load of up to 6,500 tonnes can have a stopping distance of up to 1 kilometer in cases of poor road conditions. This is ten times longer than that for a car, so there's no alternative," Lukka stressed.
In addition, Rain Kaarjas board member at Edelaraudtee, which operates freight services, and used to operate passenger services before these were taken over by Elron in 2014, noted that while railway infrastructure as a whole has continued to be developed in Estonia, safety at level crossings continues to be an issue.
"The problem of crossing railroads at unspecified locations continues to be a problem. In addition, barriers and fences meant to prevent entry into dangerous areas, have been deliberately broken," said Kaarjas. Closed level crossings with barriers would be one solution, Kaarjas said.
In May, noted actor, musician and journalist Jüri Aarma was killed at a rail crossing in the Veerenni district of Tallinn. According to media reports he had approached the crossing on his bike, while using a mobile phone.
Editor: Andrew Whyte