​Superstition to improve rail safety

​Superstition to improve rail safety

KiwiRail and TrackSAFE are harnessing the power of superstition to encourage safer behaviour around level crossings as Rail Safety Week begins.

The number of collisions with trains has increased in the past year, prompting the creative new approach to engage with the public on rail safety.

There has been a slight increase in near misses between people, vehicles and trains over the last year, but a significant rise in collisions with trains. The number of collisions at public level crossings alone has more than doubled - from 13 in the year to 30 June, 2021 to 28 in the last year.

“We’re calling on pedestrians and motorists to “blow to the left and right as they approach a crossing,” KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says.

“Train accidents are unforgiving. The average freight train weighs well over 1000 tonnes and cannot swerve to avoid a person or vehicle or stop easily. Sadly, eight people have lost their lives in accidents with trains over the past year.

“We continue to work with councils and other organisations to upgrade level crossings, and we’re trialing new technologies – such as AI cameras that can identify trespassers on railway lines and alert approaching train drivers in good time - but Kiwis have an important role to play as well.

“The increase in collisions in the last year shows that people need to change how they act around the rail network.

“That’s why this year’s Rail Safety Week campaign is focused on getting people to think differently about safety, through the “blow left and right” superstition. I also hope it sparks discussion about what behaviours would keep them safe.

“While most superstitions don’t actually deliver real benefits, this one might just save lives.”

TrackSAFE NZ Foundation Manager Megan Drayton said people needed to take more care around railway lines and this year’s campaign was a new way to get the message across.

“The jump in level crossing collisions is concerning – given many of those crossings already have flashing lights and bells or barrier arms. It shows us some motorists and pedestrians are either still being complacent or taking unnecessary risks,” she says.

“But in today’s high-pressure environment, we know people can switch off at more grim warnings.

“There are many interesting superstitions out there and they can be powerful drivers of human behaviour, no matter where you live or who you are.

“The new superstition we’re promoting instils safe behaviour. It might sound unconventional but we’re hoping that is precisely what will break through. When you blow left and right, you also conveniently look both ways, allowing you to spot oncoming trains.”

Rail Safety Week runs from Monday, 8 August to Sunday, 14 August 2022. As part of the week, Waka Kotahi is facilitating a rail safety virtual field trip, targeted at intermediate and secondary-aged students (Years 7-10).

Rail Safety Week is coordinated by KiwiRail and TrackSAFE in close partnership with Waka Kotahi, NZ Police, Auckland Transport, Auckland One Rail, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transdev Wellington and councils throughout New Zealand.

More information about the Rail Safety Week 2022 campaign is available at: