The UK's Highway Code advises the use of care when approaching a level crossing, and to only drive onto a crossing if the exit is clear on the other side. After all, finding yourself blocked on the track when a train is coming is probably not a great position to be in (unless you can depend on Hancock to stop the train before it hits). While such things may seem like common sense, that doesn't appear to prevent drivers from taking stupid risks. Now, Network Rail and Garmin have teamed up to create a special sat nav app which will sound a train-like whistle when a driver approaches a level crossing.
The free LX app will work with Garmin's nüvi or nüLink sat navs and is available as one of Garmin's In-car Extras. It is hoped that the toot-toot sound, together with a large "X" to mark the spot of the approaching level crossing, will help improve driver awareness and so reduce the number of incidents that cause damage to vehicles or trains.
Further developments in the technology will offer drivers routes which avoid level crossings altogether or alter the route if barriers have been down for a good length of time, if the alternative is quicker than waiting.
The initiative follows a scheme where high-visibility British Transport Police vans equipped with license plate recognition cameras were positioned near crossings. During the first three months of operation, 1,131 drivers have been caught and prosecuted - which gives some indication of the problem. Between January and April this year, there have also been 31 cases of vehicles narrowly avoiding collision with trains, 58 collisions with barriers, a couple of vehicles being struck by trains and even a death.
Network Rail has produced the following short video demonstration of the new app: