Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving Railroad Crossing Signal Masts and Guardrails

The installation of “active” warning devices, such as crossing signals and gates, is a principal element of state and federal railroad crossing safety programs, and their effectiveness in preventing vehicle–train collision is well documented. While most active crossings are occupied by trains only a few minutes each day, non-crashworthy items are frequently present at active crossings including crossing signal masts, crossing gate mechanisms, cantilever supports, and signal controller bungalows. Various agencies utilize longitudinal guardrail systems to protect errant motorists from striking non-frangible crossing signal hardware. This study sought to determine whether such guardrails influence the prevalence and severity of motor vehicle strikes involving crossing hardware. A review of 10?years of police crash-report narratives in Iowa, United States (U.S.) indicates an average of 15.6 crashes per year at 1,853 crossings involving signal masts, signal guardrails, or related infrastructure. Over this period, one fatality and five serious injuries occurred as a result of these crashes. The crash-injury severity distributions appeared similar in crashes with and without guardrail, and regression models showed that guardrail presence did not affect the rate of crashes involving railroad apparatus. Although the use of longitudinal guardrail systems did not appear to have a strong effect on crash rates or severity at active grade crossings, other methods for reducing crash prevalence and severity could be explored in future research, such as the development of crashworthy signal assemblies for flashing-signal-only crossings and the redesign of gate and cantilever supports to increase separation from the traveled way.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • The Standing Committee on Highway/Rail Grade Crossings (AHB60) peer-reviewed this paper (19-04798). © National Academy of Sciences: Transportation Research Board 2019.
  • Authors:
    • Cyr, Justin D
    • Shaw, John W
    • Savolainen, Peter T
  • Publication Date: 2019-12


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01710576
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jul 2 2019 3:15PM