Driver decisions at railway level crossings: are they different from other road intersections?

Collisions at railway level crossings are a concern worldwide, but the contributing factors for such collisions are not well understood. The aim of this project was to further investigate driver behaviour at all types of level crossings, during day and night-time driving. A 50-minute rural route was driven by participants in an instrumented vehicle recording GPS coordinates and the vehicle’s speed. Drivers were equipped with an eye tracking system recoding their gaze behaviour as they were driving. Driver decisions in terms of approach speed and gaze patterns before entering the crossings were compared to the behaviour at intersections with road traffic.


Drivers complied with the road rules, stopping for the passive crossing and the road intersection. However, drivers decelerated for level crossings late and abruptly when compared to the road intersection, sometimes at level crossings where they did not need to. They also spent less time assessing the situation when stopped at the crossing. Further, drivers did not appropriately adapt their driving behaviour to the reduced visibility conditions of night-time driving. This suggests that drivers may experience some difficulties in recognising the presence of the level crossing, or identifying the actions required for the type of level crossing they are approaching. These findings have implications for the development of effective road safety initiatives targeted at level crossings, and development of active advanced warnings could be considered for passive level crossings.

Funding / Grants

  • QUT (2017)