DRIVERS have been warned about the dangers of ignoring signals at level crossings after a sharp increase in offences in Rutland.
British Transport Police spend last Friday handing out leaflets and educating drivers waiting at Oakham’s main level crossing.
Officers spoke to 200 motorists to reinforce the health and safety and legality issues that come with misusing the crossing.
The awareness drive is part of a national campaign emphasising the dangers of level crossings.
Fifteen offences have been recorded at the crossing in Melton Road so far this year, up from none in the same period in 2010, although none have resulted in deaths.
Police inspector Mark Clements said: “We have seen a sharp increase in the number of motorists who are putting their lives and the lives of others at risk at this crossing.
“Incredibly some people are still willing to put their lives on the line by ignoring warning lights and sirens and trying to dash through crossings when trains are approaching.
“Last year five UK motorists lost their lives by undertaking unnecessary risks at level crossings. As the figures show, when people ignore the warnings, there can be fatal consequences and I don’t want number six to be here at Oakham.”
The operation was hailed a success by the transport police, with drivers agreeing that safety at level crossings is important.
PC Mark Rushin said: “Friday’s successful operation is part of ongoing work by the British Transport Police to speak to a high volume of frequent crossing users and highlight to drivers and the local community the dangers.
“The feedback from the public was extremely positive and they fully agreed with the high visibility activity to make the crossing safer.
“I’m pleased that no pedestrians or drivers were cautioned during the operation for misusing the crossing and we want to keep it that way.
“This education and enforcement initiative gave us another opportunity to drive home the message that running the risk at a level crossing is just not worth it. By trying to save a few seconds you could end up seriously hurt or losing your life.”
Richard Pedley, community safety manager for Network Rail, said: “It is disturbing that people continue to misuse Oakham crossing. “We understand that waiting can be frustrating, but warnings including lights and barriers at level crossings are there to protect the public from an incredibly busy rail network.
“We urge people to obey the warnings and not risk their lives or cause costly delays to the network.”
About 42 passenger and 20 freight trains travel through Oakham’s level crossings every day, with about 8,000 vehicles and more than 2,000 pedestrians and cyclists using it.
Five motorists and seven pedestrians were killed at level crossings nationwide over a 12 month period from 2009 to 2010.