Is it generally prohibited to overtake at level crossings or in their vicinity?

Level crossings are a common feature of road networks around the world, providing a means for vehicles and pedestrians to safely cross railway tracks. These crossings are typically marked by warning signs, barriers, and lights to alert road users of approaching trains. However, there is often confusion regarding the rules and regulations surrounding overtaking at level crossings or in their proximity. In this article, we will explore whether it is generally prohibited to overtake at level crossings or in their vicinity, backed by research, examples, and case studies.

The importance of safety at level crossings

Before delving into the specific regulations, it is crucial to understand the importance of safety at level crossings. According to the International Union of Railways (UIC), there are approximately 500 fatalities and 1,000 serious injuries at level crossings worldwide each year. These accidents can occur due to various factors, including driver error, lack of awareness, and non-compliance with traffic rules.

Given the potential risks involved, it is essential to have clear guidelines and regulations in place to ensure the safety of all road users. Let’s explore the regulations regarding overtaking at level crossings or in their vicinity in different countries.

Overtaking regulations at level crossings: A global perspective

United States

In the United States, overtaking at level crossings is generally prohibited. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) states that drivers must not overtake another vehicle within 100 feet of a railroad crossing. This regulation aims to prevent accidents and ensure that drivers have enough time to react to approaching trains.

Furthermore, the FRA emphasizes that drivers should never attempt to go around a lowered gate or disregard any other warning devices at a level crossing. Violating these regulations can result in fines, penalties, and even criminal charges.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, overtaking at level crossings is also generally prohibited. The Highway Code, which provides guidance on road safety rules and regulations, states that drivers should not overtake at or near a level crossing. This rule applies to both road vehicles and cyclists.

The UK government has implemented various measures to ensure compliance with this regulation. For instance, they have introduced advanced warning signs, road markings, and barriers to alert drivers of approaching trains. Additionally, they have installed cameras at certain level crossings to monitor and enforce traffic rules.


In Germany, overtaking at level crossings is strictly prohibited. The German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) explicitly state that overtaking is not allowed within 80 meters before and after a level crossing. This regulation aims to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of all road users.

German authorities have also implemented additional safety measures at level crossings, such as flashing lights, acoustic signals, and barriers. These measures serve as visual and auditory warnings to drivers, indicating the presence of an approaching train.

Case studies and statistics

Examining case studies and statistics can provide valuable insights into the consequences of overtaking at level crossings or in their vicinity. Let’s explore a few examples:

Case study: Australia

In Australia, a case study conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) highlighted the dangers of overtaking at level crossings. The study analyzed several accidents and near misses, revealing that overtaking was a contributing factor in a significant number of incidents.

One particular case involved a driver attempting to overtake a vehicle at a level crossing. As a result, the overtaking vehicle collided with an oncoming train, resulting in multiple fatalities and injuries. This tragic incident emphasizes the importance of adhering to overtaking regulations at level crossings.

Statistics: European Union

According to statistics from the European Union Agency for Railways, there were 1,011 accidents at level crossings in the European Union in 2019. Out of these accidents, 267 resulted in fatalities, and 744 caused injuries. These numbers highlight the severity of level crossing accidents and the need for strict regulations to prevent them.

Furthermore, the statistics reveal that a significant number of accidents occur due to non-compliance with traffic rules, including overtaking at level crossings. This reinforces the importance of educating drivers and enforcing regulations to ensure the safety of all road users.


1. Can you overtake a vehicle waiting at a level crossing?

No, it is generally prohibited to overtake a vehicle waiting at a level crossing. Overtaking in such situations can be dangerous and may lead to accidents. It is crucial to exercise patience and wait for the train to pass before proceeding.

2. Are there any exceptions to the overtaking regulations at level crossings?

While overtaking is generally prohibited at level crossings, there may be specific circumstances where exceptions apply. For example, emergency vehicles may be allowed to overtake if responding to an urgent situation. However, even in such cases, caution must be exercised to ensure the safety of all road users.

3. What are the penalties for overtaking at a level crossing?

The penalties for overtaking at a level crossing vary depending on the country and its specific regulations. In many jurisdictions, violating overtaking regulations at level crossings can result in fines, penalty points on the driver’s license, and even criminal charges in severe cases. It is essential to familiarize oneself with the local traffic laws to avoid any legal consequences.

4. How can we raise awareness about the dangers of overtaking at level crossings?

Raising awareness about the dangers of overtaking at level crossings is crucial to prevent accidents and save lives. Some effective measures include:

  • Education campaigns: Governments and organizations can launch educational campaigns to inform the public about the risks associated with overtaking at level crossings.
  • Signage and road markings: Clear and visible signage, along with road markings, can remind drivers of the prohibition on overtaking at level crossings.
  • Enforcement: Strict enforcement of traffic regulations, including overtaking restrictions, can deter drivers from engaging in risky behavior.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration between transportation authorities, railway companies, and road safety organizations can help develop comprehensive strategies to address the issue.

5. What should you do if you witness someone overtaking at a level crossing?

If you witness someone overtaking at a level crossing, it is essential to prioritize your safety and the safety of others. Avoid engaging in confrontations or attempting to intervene directly. Instead, report the incident to the appropriate authorities, providing them with any relevant information, such as the vehicle’s license plate number and a description of the incident. This will help authorities take appropriate action and prevent potential accidents.


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