Effects of driver attention on rail crossing safety and : The effects of auditory warnings and driver distraction on rail crossing safety.

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Train-vehicle/train collisions at highway-rail grade crossings (crossings) continue to be a major issue in the US and around the world. Although the United States has made great strides in improving safety at crossings since the 1970s, vehicle-train accidents remain a major concern for the rail industry, costing millions of dollars every year and taking or destroying countless lives.

Noncompliant behavior such as gate-running is the biggest cause of accidents at crossings protected by active warning devices, while failure to detect the crossing or train, or at least, a poor time-to-arrival judgment, is the largest cause of accidents at crossings protected by passive warnings. Crossings with active warnings have lower crash risks per volume of vehicle traffic than those with passive warning devices. However, the cost to install and maintain active warnings is considerable and likely a barrier in many areas. Therefore, it is not only important to better understand the reasons behind driver’s non-compliant behavior, but also to assess the effectiveness and potential safety benefits of alternative warning approaches.

Because the nature of the breakdown in safety is due to different issues depending on the type of crossing, multiple countermeasures to increase safety must be developed to specifically target each issue independently and to promote respect for crossing warnings in general. In order to better understand how and why these collisions occur, we conducted a number of studies that investigated the psychology behind driver decision making on approach to crossings in a medium fidelity driving simulator.

The empirical investigation was split into two separate phases. The first phase of studies focused on the difference in driver response between different warning types. In Phase two of the driver behavior studies, In-Vehicle Auditory Alerts (IVAA’s) were developed and tested. Now that GPS, smartphone, and in-vehicle display technology have become less expensive and more popular, In-vehicle Auditory Alerts (IVAAs) for crossings are a potential low cost intervention that could upgrade all crossings nationwide at once. As of 2015, the FRA and Google have entered into a partnership to include the location of all RR crossings in Google Maps services, although no formal plans have been made public to introduce in-vehicle warnings for crossings. A type of warning system that could be easily implemented with the current technology is to provide in-vehicle notifications to alert the driver to the presence of crossings. This was selected as the objective of phase two. In this

study a pool of auditory cues was created and evaluated. Based on the results we designed and tested a prototype IVAA system.

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Publisher's version of record: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/31422

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National University Rail Center (U.S.)