MOTORISTS are risking their lives by misusing one of the busiest level crossings in the area, transport police have warned.
High-visibility patrols are being carried out by British Transport Police at crossings such as Ford in a week of action to cut down dangerous manoeuvres by drivers.
A total of 48 offences were recorded at Ford – the busiest crossing between Portsmouth and Brighton – from February 2014 to February 2015.
Inspector Becky Warren said: “All too often people get into the habit of taking risks at crossings. Our message is simple – use crossings safely.
“It may be tempting to jump a light to shave a minute or two off your journey, but every time you do, you endanger your life and the lives of other road and rail users.
“Fail to obey the signals and you may also end up with a driving ban or a criminal record. Is it really worth the risk?”
Of the offences recorded at Ford, 43 offenders were sent on a driver awareness course, four were issued with a fixed penalty notice and one offender was summonsed to court.
The police fleet of mobile safety vehicles have been stationed at crossings across West Sussex this week.
The vans utilise the latest in automatic number plate recognition, allowing officers to monitor crossings more closely than ever before.
Darren Furness, head of level crossings for Network Rail, said: “Level crossings create a risk for people that we want to remove. Where possible we close them, and we have already closed more than 900 in the past five years.
“Those we cannot close, we aim to make safer and awareness events like these mean we can meet and talk to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about the dangers and how to stay safe.
“We know waiting at crossings can sometimes be frustrating but it is really important that people do not get complacent or ignore warnings lights as this can put lives at risk.”
The week of increased activity has been branded ‘Operation Look’, with officers planning to release video footage of offences to coincide with it.
The campaign is also being backed by the AA and RAC.
An RAC spokesman said ‘too many lives’ were being lost as a result of incidents taking place at level crossings across the UK.
A total of 306 trains a day go through Ford crossing on each week day, with a maximum of 21 trains per hour.