Accidents at level crossings; Contrary to popular belief, careless behaviour is not the only cause.

proceedings of seminar B (P304) held at the 16th PTRC European Transport and Planning Summer Annual Meeting, University of Bath, England, September 12-16, 1988.


Wittink, R.D.




This article reviews the results of 2 surveys on the causes of accidents at level crossings. In the first survey, driver behaviour was observed at 2 crossings. These crossings had no particular features that could affect driver behaviour. The level crossing warning lights and fences were visible from quite a distance away, and both rail and road traffic volume was high for automatic crossings. The behaviour of approaching car drivers was recorded on video ten hours a day for 7 consecutive days. Drivers' head movements were also recorded on two of those days. The recordings were then processed to establish driving speeds, positions, and time intervals. Motorists' behaviour was classified according to whether the lights showed ""clear"" or ""danger"". The behaviour of over 900 motorists was analysed : 660 approaching the ""danger"" signal, and 272 approaching the ""clear"" signal. In the second survey, road users were stopped after crossing a level crossing and interviewed. The road users were asked whether they had seen the warning light, whether they understood what it meant, and how often they used the crossing. The results show that about 7% of those interviewed had not seen the flashing light, and about 12% admitted to having seen it but ignored it. Those people who used the crossing most frequently were the most likely to either ignore the lights or not notice them. Some 3% admitted that they crossed once a train had passed without waiting for the lights to stop flashing. Most people understood what both the white and red flashing lights meant. The results indicate that lack of attention, a genuine inability to see the lights due to dazzle, and excessive acceptance of risk are all factors in accidents at level crossings.

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Traffic management and road safety.




The Planning and Transport Research and Computation International Association PTRC Education and Research Services,, London


September 12-16, 1988, University of Bath, England,