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9 June 2011, 14:43
British Transport Police say their camera van's shown that women aged 50-65 are most likely to jump level crossings in the South.
The marked police van started operations in January 2011.
British Transport Police officers, who operate the van, have caught and prosecuted 1,131 people with various offences ranging from jumping the lights and driving through crossings as barriers come down to striking barriers, careless and dangerous driving and yellow box junction obstructions.
Men aged 50-65 account for the second highest number of offences (19%), which means that this age group alone is responsible for 47% of the misuse caught on camera.
Males aged between 17-25 often regarded as the highest risk motoring group - accounted for 8% of offences.
To date, the van has carried out operations at 43 level crossings across the south east of England.
Motorists and pedestrians in Greater London committed the highest number of offences, accounting for 46% of those recorded to date. Kent residents accounted for the next highest number of offences (17%), followed by Surrey (14%), West Sussex (13%), East Sussex (5%) and Hampshire (3%).
Dyan Crowther, Network Rail's director of operational services, said:
"The camera vehicle has proved what we always believed, that far too many people are misusing level crossings. Although the initial trend shows that older people are responsible for the highest number of offences, all ages misuse crossings.
"Our aim is to deter them all rather than prosecute. We hope those caught will change their behaviour and along with our other activities we'll see a reduced impact on passenger services and the cost of these crimes on the running of the railway."
Jumping red lights was the offence committed by most people (61%) followed by stopping on a box junction (27%). Dangerous driving and careless driving accounted for 2% of offences and 4% of prosecutions were for pedestrians who did not follow the rules.
Superintendent Andrew Ball, from BTPs London South area said:
"Whilst the findings are surprising, when people ignore the warnings, there can be fatal circumstances. We understand that waiting at a crossing can be frustrating, but warnings including lights and barriers are there to protect the public from an incredibly busy rail network.
"The innovative sat nav technology will be a useful tool in helping to reduce level crossing misuse across the country. In comparison to most other countries we have a good safety record, but misuse of crossing persists, despite our best efforts, and even one death is one too many.
"Our officers remain committed to not only detecting offenders, but working closely with Network Rail to reinforce the safety message and continue our educational approach in order to change driver behaviour.
"Jumping the lights and ignoring warning signs is still sadly a sight we see all too often. Level crossings are safe but if misused they pose very real risks. It is just not worth it, by trying to save a few seconds, you could end up seriously hurt or losing your life."
Another initiative being launched by the company a world first in sat nav technology which will improve awareness of level crossings and encourage safer driving. A free downloadable application which alerts drivers with a cheery train whistle sound that they are approaching a level crossing has been developed by Network Rail and leading satellite navigation provider Garmin.
It is hoped the new technology will encourage safer motoring and reduce the number of incidents which cause damage, disruption and a number of deaths each year.
Dyan Crowther said:
"Motorists that jump the lights or smash into barriers as they try and beat them coming down can cause great disruption and cost to the network, so weâ€™re always looking at new ways to reduce the risk of incidents at level crossings.
"Sat nav technology has proved to be a great help to motorists in alerting them to whatâ€™s ahead on the road, so developing an app around level crossings seemed a smart idea and we hope it will be a useful aid to motorists as the roads and the railway get even busier."