By 3 News online staff
They're big, bulky, and fast, and you should expect them at all times.
That's the message of this year's Rail Safety Week which was launched in Wellington today.
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says while safety around rail crossings has improved, more needs to be done.
"Every month [in Auckland] there are 40 barriers that get smashed – people in cars trying to beat the train. It's just unbelievable when you think about it – and particularly now in Auckland when the trains are very quiet and with more patronage in [Wellington] it's a real risk," he says.
In the past year, there have been 29 near collisions, six deaths and one serious injury. Mr Reidy says the number of incidents has come down from 10 a month previously, but now is down to about two per month.
"You can imagine 800 tonnes of freight, you're going 80km/h, you don't have any ability to swerve, you can't stop, you see a car approaching and the car carries on over the railway track. Imagine if you're a driver. All you can do is get in the crouch position."
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the week is a good opportunity to highlight the care needed around rail crossings.
"Whether you are an urban commuter, or in a car, truck or van at a rural level crossing, the message is the same: remember a train can come along at any time and from any direction," he says.
As part of the week's events, a life-size locomotive billboard has been erected near Carterton.
KiwiRail says research conducted to support the campaign showed drivers familiar with rural roads are often complacent, especially around level crossings controlled by Stop and Give Way signs.
The billboard will be officially unveiled tomorrow.