Reducing Risk Taking at Passive Railroad Crossings with Active Warnings

Principal Investigator:

Thomas Smith, Research Associate, Kinesiology

Project Summary:

Based on a successful test with school buses in the Glencoe School District and the TC&W Railroad, Mn/DOT's offices of Advanced Transportation Systems and Freight, Railroads and Waterways believes it is technically feasible to develop an active warning system (AWS) for passive RR Xings that could be deployed for under $10,000 per crossing do not warrant gates and lights. In order to develop and implement this system, Mn/DOT is working with four co-operators: (1and 2) #M Corp and DvSS are responsible for development, proof-of-concept assessment, and implementation of the AWS Technology, comprising a flashing LED visual warning mounted on the RR crossbuck, a second active warning installed at a roadside position in advance of the crossing, triggering of both warnings by start-and end-of-train signals using GPS with and without priority control, use of solar power and easy and low-cost maintenance. These cooperators will provide AWS design specifications to be used for simulation modeling, and 3M may also provide off-road test facilities. 3 TC&W Railroad will provide design specifications for a train and one or more RR Xings to be used for simulation modeling; and (4) the University of Minnesota Division of Kinesiology Human Factors Research Laboratory (HFRL) is responsible for human factors analysis of driver behavior and performance with the AWS technology, based on both simulated driving research and field study of driver behavior and performance at selected test and control TC&W RR grade Dings with and without AWS technology installed, based on records collected from train-mounted cameras. Meeting of project cooperators on July 15, 1999 and January 28, 2000, defined these roles, discussed technological and organizational requirements and challenges for the project, and developed a provisional project schedule. This work plan pertains to the HFRL research, hereafter designated Phase 1 of the project. HFRL research will comprise three stages (1) usability assessment of alternative AWS designs: (2) simulated driving performance assessment; and (3) development of experimental design and protocol specifications for an extensive field study performance of the system, hereafter designated as Phase 2 of the project. Project Phase 2, to be conducted in the future will involve proposed large scale operational test of system effectiveness. For States 1 and 2 during project phase 1, an TT grade crossing and a moving train (design specifications provided by TC&W RR and Mn/DOT) will be modeled for the HFRL fixed-base driving simulator. For usability analysis, a selected subject cohort will be asked to provide judgments of utility, acceptability and appeal of different alternative AWS designs, developed in collaboration with 3M and Mn/DOT. The usability assessment will be carried out during passive viewing of the simulated AWS-equipped RR crossing, with the simulated AWS actuated by traversal of a simulated moving train.


Project Details:

  • Start date: 07/2000
  • Project Status: Completed
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Rail, Safety