Getting active with passive crossings: Investigating the use of in-vehicle auditory alerts for highway-rail grade crossings

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This paper investigates the plausibility of a novel in-vehicle auditory alert system to warn drivers of the presence of railroad crossings. Train-Vehicle collisions at highway-rail grade crossings continue to be a major issue despite improvements over the past several decades. In 2014 there were 2,286 highway-rail incidents leading to 852 injuries and 269 fatalities. This marked the first time in the past decade that incident rates increased from the previous year. To prevent the overall trend in safety improvement from plateauing, interest is shifting towards novel warning devices that can be applied to all crossings at minimal cost. These novel warnings are intended to complement but not replace the primary visual warnings that are already in place at both active and passive crossings. Few in-vehicle warning systems have been described and tested in the rail safety literature. The ones that have been described only manipulate the modality or reliability of the warning message, and pay little attention to message content, timing of presentation, mappings between crossing events and warning logic, and driver habituation associated with long term use. To this end, a line of research has been being carried out to design in-vehicle auditory alerts and measure subjective preference and driver behavior in response to in-vehicle auditory alerts. The first study included a subjective evaluation of potential auditory cues. Cues rated as most effective and appropriate were included in the design of prototype systems in the follow up study. The second study will measure compliance rates in a driving simulator with and without in-vehicle auditory alerts. The results of first study and the study design for the second study are discussed.

Publisher's Statement

Copyright © 2016 by ASME. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1115/JRC2016-5827

Publication Title

2016 Joint Rail Conference