There have been 59 'near misses' and eight collisions on Welsh rail crossings, according to new figures.

Network Rail Wales and Borders and British Transport Police say drivers are failing to understand the risks at level crossings after new research reveals over a third of drivers in Wales and Borders have never been taught how to use them.

While Britain has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks, and with 1,150 level crossings, a staggering one fifth of all level crossings on the Great British rail network are in Wales and Borders.

Worryingly, the findings showed almost a fifth of drivers (18 per cent) would go straight over a level crossing if they had checked the train timetable and believed no train was coming. This is particularly dangerous as freight trains or other trains not listed on the public timetable often pass through level crossings at speeds of up to 100mph.

The study revealed nearly half of the drivers surveyed (44 per cent) were most distracted by their own thoughts, with over a third stating that passengers also caused a distraction (34 per cent).

Bill Kelly, route managing director for Network Rail in Wales and Borders, said: "It’s clear that there is a lack of knowledge around how dangerous railway crossings can be. We are seeing drivers take risks at level crossings every day - putting themselves and others in danger. Nothing is worth risking your life over, just to save a few minutes of time."

"We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need drivers to obey the law at level crossings. By staying behind the barrier until it is safe to cross and paying attention to the warnings at level crossings, we can all keep ourselves and those in our vehicles out of harm’s way."

Inspector Phil Hyatt from British Transport Police said: "We run a number of activities at level crossings throughout the UK. We want to raise awareness, help to educate drivers in how best to use level crossings, and highlight the potential dangers and consequences of deliberate misuse. Failing to stop when the lights come on, or worse still when the barriers start to come down, not only puts you and others in danger but these are also offences which will lead to you being prosecuted."