Getting the Attention of Drivers Back on Passive Railway Level Crossings: Evaluation of Advanced Flashing Lights

Improving safety at railway level crossings remains a priority for the rail industry internationally, as they remain a significant hazard. A high proportion of collisions occur at passive level crossings, because of their high prevalence and their lower effectiveness at mitigating the risks that road users encounter at such crossings. The unreasonable cost required to upgrade them to incorporate active warnings implies that such crossings will remain on the road, and that alternative approaches are required. Drivers tend to make errors at such crossings, and this can be related to approaching such level crossings at speeds that are too high, exhibiting reduced scanning behaviors to look for trains, and not complying with stop signs at the crossing. An alternative approach is to upgrade the advanced signage with active flashing lights activated by road vehicles, aimed at reducing looked-but-failed-to-see errors and reinforcing the behavior expected from road users at such crossings. A field trial was conducted in New Zealand that evaluated how approach speeds and the visual scanning behavior of 27 drivers, recorded with an eye tracker, changed with such treatments. It was found that the presence of road vehicle-activated advanced signage provided a range of benefits for drivers unaware of the presence of a passive crossings, such as increasing drivers’ attention to road signs through drivers fixating on signage for longer durations and reduced (slower) approach speeds. Further research is needed to evaluate whether these benefits are sustained over time, and whether this can minimize complacency resulting from familiarity.


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  • Accession Number: 01694169
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 19-01593
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Feb 1 2019 12:14PM