Archive for January, 2008

The “right” way to indicate Keep Left

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Things are quiet at No Wombats as the holiday season is in full swing - so this post comes from the sunny South Island.

One of the problems that causes traffic accidents in New Zealand is visiting drivers from countries where they drive on the right hand side of the road driving down (usually country) roads on the wrong side.

To prevent this there are helpful arrows painted on the road  here and there. But more commonly seen are road signs saying “Left Links”. If you’re a right hand side of the road driver you look to the right for road signs. So where are these warning signs targeting these drivers located? Yup - on the left hand side of the road - along with all our NZ targeted signs. These, however, should be on the right.

Year opens with another rail crossing accident

Monday, January 7th, 2008

The NZ Herald reported a “day of horror crashes”, including a family of four whose car was struck by a goods train near Hawera. Fortunately, there were only injuries and no deaths - the driver and passenger injured and young children with seatbelts in the rear seat were fine.

This blog has looked at rail crossing safety before - so I took a quick look at the relevant government websites to see if there is any news of safety developments.

No apparent developments - but I had a closer look at some previous statements.

This from the Chairman’s Report from ONTRACK’s 2007 Annual Report:

The issue of level crossing safety is discussed elsewhere, but in the context of corporate social responsibility, ONTRACK has had no choice but to deliver the unpalatable message that such expectations cannot be met. Two factors force us to prioritise the work we do on crossing upgrades – the “modest sum” available and the shortage of skilled signals engineers to design and install the barrier arms.

In other words, don’t expect significant change anytime soon. This despite their website telling us that “Level crossing safety is a two-way street” which includes that “Safety is a top priority for ONTRACK…”. This article uses some very “loose” comparisons , for example:

This may be because level crossing accidents are comparatively rare. Over the past 10 years, the average has been 34 a year. Compare this with more than 1800 injury collisions at other road intersections in a typical year.

There is no comparison - compare 1400 rail crossings to how many road intersections in New Zealand? Meaningless.

Similarly:

It’s a sobering thought that roughly 13 percent of accidents occur where there are barrier arms in place. Of the remainder, half of the accidents occur on intersections fitted with flashing lights and bells.

Again, these percentages are meaningless. The barrier arm crossings are where there are high volumes of traffic and those with no barriers have low volumes. To be meaningful you need to compare accidents rates at each crossing type to the number of vehicles that cross the tracks for each type of crossing. Once you do that you may well find that the “results” and conclusions are completely different.

It’s hard to not conclude that the spinmeisters are too involved in this area.

From the LTSA site here are some “Facts and figures about rail safety” (verbatim from their document):

About level crossings

  • 1400 public road level crossings:
    • 257 (19 per cent) have half-arm barriers, flashing lights and bells
    • 450 (32 per cent) are protected by flashing lights and bells
    • 49 per cent are protected by signs alone
  • Over 70 stand-alone public pedestrian level crossings
    • About one third are equipped with automatic alarms (generally flashing “Train Coming” signs or flashing lights plus bells)

What a curious way to express the figures - here’s how I’d like to see it:

About level crossings

  • 1400 public road level crossings:
    • 257 (19 per cent) have half-arm barriers, flashing lights and bells
    • 450 (32 per cent) are protected by flashing lights and bells
    • 693 (49 per cent) are protected by signs alone
  • Over 70 stand-alone public pedestrian level crossings
    • 22 are equipped with automatic alarms (generally flashing “Train
      Coming” signs or flashing lights plus bells)

When “safety is a top priority” then clear, transparent communication is a top priority also.