Dr. K Parameswaran*
Renowned Gyanpeeth award winner from Kerala Shri S K Pottekat once wrote in his famous travelogue to London about a sign board he had seen in the city. It read – “impatience to cross roads creates in – patients in hospitals”! This applies to crossing railway lines at unmanned level crossings also. At the height of our hurry to cross the level crossing just before the speeding trains pass by, we forget the elementary fact that trains, which travel at a speed of about 100 kms per hour, hardly take a minute to traverse 1.7 kms! Thus, it is just for a gain of less than a minute that we try to cross a railway track when the speeding train is visible afar!
The Indian Railways and the Railway Safety Organization is jointly organizing a campaign to highlight the safety aspect of using railways, especially to highlight the dangers of impatience when it comes to crossing level crossings.
The International Union of Railways (UIC) observes one day every year as the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD). This year the day falls on June 3rd. Indian Railways will also be participating in this global campaign to sensitize road users and to increase safety at unmanned level crossings. The ILCAD focuses on educational measures and the promotion of safe behavior at and around level crossings. It is built on existing national events which will be held jointly at various locations in every participating country on June 3rd, 2014.
The Madurai Railway Division will also be observing International Unmanned Level Crossing Awareness day on next Tuesday (June 3, 2014). Officials of the division will visit unmanned railway crossings and interact with the public to make them aware about the dangers of impatience while crossing unmanned railway crossings. The exercise will be held on all days from June 2nd to June 6th.
They will also distribute awareness materials like posters, pamphlets etc on the occasion. Performance of street plays, exhibition of videos etc, are also planned as part of the propaganda. A set of specially made hand fans, with safety motto emblazoned across it, pens and pencils with safety measures written boldly across them etc are also being distributed to villagers, school students etc.
Shri A K Rastogi, Divisional Railway Manager, Madurai division said that about 40% of the 31254 level crossings on Indiian railways – this comes to about 12500 level crossings – are unmanned. These level crossings contribute to about 40% of train accidents, of which as high as 66% result in the loss of human lives. He observed that the accidents at level crossings are largely man made and can be avoided.
He revealed that a train, which is running at a speed of about 100 km per hour, will take hardly a minute to cross a distance of about 1.7 kms. Additionally, loco pilots have been instructed to blow the engine whistle from a distance of 600 metres while approaching a level crossing.
Railways have also provided four kinds of sign boards, warning road users about the presence of unmanned railway crossings at distances of 200, 120, and five metres from the actual crossing. The first board features a railway engine and two strips and the second one an engine and one strip. The third board is a speed breaker warning and the fourth one will carry, in broad letters, the legend “Stop, Listen and Proceed”.
The railways are constantly requesting passengers to be careful while negotiating level crossings. Playing car radios at high volume, trying to cross the level crossings when the train is in sight, talking on mobile phones while driving, are all direct invitations to accidents with possible loss of lives.
Another recurrent theme of railway safety messages is that your life is precious and that your family is awaiting you at home. Rash and hasty driving will only lead to accidents.
The Railway safety Organization has stressed the importance of following the guide lines while crossing unmanned level crossings. The organization has, time and again, requested car and bus passengers, to stop the vehicle, get down and look out for any approaching train from both directions and then only cross the railway line if no trains are approaching!
Next time when approaching a level crossing, please remember this – a wait of less than a minute will lead to a gain of a whole life time. For this waiting of just one minute, what you may have to forgo could well be a healthy, joyous, fruitful lifetime!