Level crossings are a part of the UK road network where railway lines intersect
with a road. They pose a particularly dangerous risk as trains pass at considerable
speeds during certain times of the day, it is a subject that a surprising amount
of recently passed license holders or even some experienced drivers are not too
aware of. This occurs because the area where they took their driving lessons did
not have any level crossings therefore they have a vague knowledge of the subject,
if you are learning with Fineline Driving Academy you can rest assured that we will
give you all of the knowledge you need to negotiate level crossings safely.
How to safely pass a level crossing
Always approach a level crossing with caution, they are designed to give plenty
of warning to prevent any accidents as these are more often serious incidents. If
a train is approaching the level crossing, the triangular set of lights will show
a steady amber light followed by two flashing red lights which shows you that you
should stop. The lights are normally accompanied by an alarm to raise awareness
for pedestrians. A typical level crossing that you might come across is shown in figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Typical level crossing
The flashing warning lights which are visible on the right of the image will be followed shortly by the barrier coming down,
do not try to beat the barriers by zipping through as they could come straight down
onto your car leaving you in a not-so-clever position. Unfortunately, many cheeky
daredevils will try to get through before the barriers come down, mainly because
they know that once the barriers are down they will be waiting for a while before
they come up again. Be prepared to turn your engine off when waiting because you
could be stationary for up to 15 minutes or even longer, only move off when the
barriers have been raised. The following signs show various warning signs for different
types or level crossings you might encounter:
Level crossing warning sign posts
What to avoid at a level crossing
You should avoid parking on or near a level crossing for any reason whatsoever,
this seems quite obvious but some people have been known to park within a dangerous
proximity to level crossings. If you are behind a queue of traffic at a level crossing,
you should avoid getting too close, always make sure you can see the opposite cars
tyres and the tarmac the tyres are on.
Sometimes the train you were waiting for will have passed but the but the red lights
continue to flash. You should not continue in this scenario because another train
might be coming, be patient because it is your safety at risk. You can come across
a variety of barriers such as zig zag barriers or crossings without any barriers
and just warning lights, abide by the rules of the warning and be patient. A few
minutes of waiting at a level crossing is simple not worth the risk.
FINELINES guide to level crossings
You may have seen adverts on TV warning you of the hazards of level crossings, the
reason for this is that they pose a more serious risk than most people give them
credit for. Dont do anything silly when at a level crossing, assess the situation
carefully and abide by the rules of the lights. Heres a guide that Fineline Driving
Academy has created to recap the most important points about level crossings:
• If approaching a level crossing, see the lights and what colour sequence is on
show. A steady amber light and twin flashing red lights mean the barrier is about
to come down and you need to stop. Dont try and squeeze past before the barriers
• Turn your engine off if you are waiting for the train to come, you could be there
for a while so this will save you some fuel and reduce air pollution in the area.
• Barriers come in all shapes and sizes, the main objective is to aware of warning
lights and audible sirens and wait patiently for the train to pass.
• If a train passes but the flashing red lights remain then stay put because another
train will most probably be coming past.
• You should only continue when the flashing lights stop and the barriers raise.