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Stopped in their tracks

Stopped in their tracks - full story

09 September, 2012

Reporter: Peter Fitzsimons
Producers: Rebecca Le Tourneau and Alex Garipoli

Three people are killed by trains every week across Australia. Trains are delayed, commuters are frustrated, and police and paramedics have the grisly job of cleaning up.

But rarely do we spare a thought for the train drivers who witness it all. They're the ‘accidental killers’ and what they experience from the driver’s cab makes their job one of the most traumatic in the country. Train drivers rarely speak out about what they face every day they clock on, instead hiding their trauma behind a culture of silence.

But in this amazing report, reporter Peter Fitzsimons spoke with a number of drivers about how they cope with what they see, and their resulting feelings of grief and powerlessness. These drivers aren’t to blame for the deaths - a commuter train can take around half a kilometre to come to a stop and all too often drivers hit the brakes and can only sit and stare at the inevitable tragedy ahead. Even so, many carry a sense of guilt about the tragedies they witness.

The story comes with never before seen real footage of how close some people come to death, with CCTV clips of everyone from skylarking teens to harried commuters trying to beat trains at level crossings.

We also met Jonathan Beninca, a lucky survivor who lost an arm, a leg and three fingers on one hand while throwing rocks at a train as a teenager. Jonathan now dedicates his life to touring schools, teaching students about the danger of risky behaviour near railway tracks. He can be contacted for public speaking at

Useful links:

Support is available for anyone who may be depressed or suffering trauma by calling Lifeline on 131 114, Mensline on 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or by visiting Beyond Blue.

You can also visit the trackSAFE Foundation for more information about rail safety.