Trains are massive, powerful things weighing many, many tonnes. In comparison, cars are small, flimsy little things. In a fight between a train and a car there’s only going to be one winner. Yet that simple fact doesn’t deter more than 1,000 motorists from misusing level crossings every year. Something Skoda is aware of and is trialling a new bit of technology to try and combat.
Using a level crossing when it’s not safe to do so can land you a fine and 3 points on your licence. If a driver stops on a level crossing or drives around the barriers, this can be considered dangerous or careless driving and result in an escalated fine and a 12-month driving ban.
It can also put you directly in the path of tonnes of speeding metal and machinery, not only risking your life but also the lives of all the people onboard the train. Not to mention the huge disruption to the rail network while the emergency services clean up your mistake.
Each year an average of 1,181 drivers are running the risk of crossing a rail line instead of waiting patiently for the train to pass. Between 2011 and 2021, almost a thousand of those instances lead to near misses. In some cases, the near miss wasn’t a miss...
There are nearly 6,000 level crossings in Britain, with only a third featuring some form of alert to warn drivers of an approaching train, according to Network Rail.
Skoda is piloting innovative train warning software developed with Czech railway company Leo Express. Real-time train locations are regularly transmitted to the cloud, which Skoda then communicates to any vehicle using the Traffication infotainment app near a level crossing when a train is approaching. The warning about the approaching train is shown on the central infotainment display along with a warning spoken audibly, informing the driver to stop.
Skoda is currently piloting the software in the Czech Republic and is already working on integrating other railway companies across Europe. The Traffication app aims to be a further warning for drivers who may have missed road signs leading up to a level crossing.
The new feature will eventually be part of the Skoda Traffication infotainment app which provides real-time alerts when drivers encounter nearby traffic hazards.
The Traffication app already warns drivers in the UK of severe weather, motorists driving the wrong way against the flow of traffic, and bad road conditions or nearby accidents without needing to enter a destination. The app runs automatically once the car starts, and advanced warnings can also be provided using cloud technology and data from other Skoda drivers - for example, poor visibility can be identified by other drivers switching their fog lights on so the app can then warn other users in the area. Drivers can also manually report traffic hazards to warn others.
The app is available in all current Skoda models apart from the Enyaq iV, provided the car is equipped with the latest MIB-3 infotainment system.
In the meantime, take extra care around level crossings, make sure they’re clear before you try and cross, and if the lights are flashing and the barriers are down you’ll just have to sit and wait like the rest of us.
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