In the last 17 years, California has experienced more than 17,000 vehicle-train accidents, which have claimed more than 550 lives. The California Public Utilities Commission and the California State Legislature have attempted to reduce the continuing human and economic loss by promoting the installation of flashing light signals and automatic crossing gates. This study is intended to gauge the effect of automatic warning devices on the frequency of vehicle-train accidents and to examine specific crossing locations to appraise the capabilities of automatic warning devices in reducing the number and severity of vehicle-train accidents. To determine the effectiveness of automatic warning devices under varying conditions, the before-and-after accident histories at 1552 grade crossings where automatic devices were installed between 1960 and 1970 were compared on a crossing-year basis and segregated by type of warning device, rural versus urban conditions, and the number of railroad tracks. While some limitations and adverse side effects do exist, the results indicate that the installation of automatic gates can be expected, on the average, to reduce vehicle-train accidents by approximately 70 percent per crossing-year and to reduce related deaths and injuries by 89 and 83 percent per year respectively. In addition, it would appear that the use of automatic gates eliminates many of those accidents that represent the greatest potential severity, since there were 64 percent fewer deaths per accident, 43 percent fewer per accident, and 36 percent fewer deaths per injury. The data obtained on vehicle-train accidents and their severity were combined with average installation, maintenance, and operation costs for flashing lights and automatic gates to provide a brief economic analysis of the most cost-effective alternative. /Author/

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: References; Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 49-57
  • Monograph Title: Railroad-highway crossings, visibility, and human factors
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00163046
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309025877
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-021 004
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Oct 13 1977 12:00AM