Safe Transportation Research & Education Center
Addressing Inappropriate Driver Behavior at Rail-Highway Crossings
- Author(s): Cooper, Douglas L.
- Ragland, David R
- et al.
Driver behavior at rail highway crossings has been the subject of numerous studies, most of which show that violations are relatively commonplace. The focus of this paper will be on those drivers who drive around fully descended gates. Drivers commonly misjudge the speed and distance of trains. They must make a decision about the time remaining before the train arrives based on sensory signals as well as non-sensory factors such as expectations and motivation. At a gated crossing, where drivers have been alerted to the imminent danger by lowered gates, there is more to be gained by preventing gate running, or at least making it very difficult, than by attempting to aid drivers in making a better informed decision as to whether or not there is sufficient time to clear the crossing before the train arrives. This is especially true given people’s innate inability to judge the speed of a large object coming directly at them, both because the growth in size is not linear, and because human vision underestimates the speed of large objects. Given the costs involved in closing or making a crossing impenetrable, it is worthwhile looking at other approaches that can cost effectively reduce gate-running. These include long-arm gates, medians, photo enforcement, and four-quadrant gates.