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Research project: Application of contemporary systems-based methods to reduce trauma at rail level crossings

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Crashes at railway level crossings continue to cause significant trauma across the world. Despite being a longstanding safety problem, the design and operation of level crossings has not changed considerably for decades. This research will provide an in depth understanding of road user, environmental and infrastructure related factors that influence safety and performance at rail level crossings. This will be used to develop a world first model of the level crossing system that is needed to support the development of innovative countermeasures that will improve safety. Reductions in the levels of significant trauma at level crossings, and new public policy for level crossing upgrades, are the intended real world outcomes.

This Australian Research Council funded project takes a novel approach to reducing trauma at rail level crossings (RLX). It is achieving this aim by using Human Factors methods in data collection and analysis to generate new RLX design concepts, and will evaluate these in a driving simulator. World-first studies have been conducted using MUARC’s instrumented vehicles to better understand driver behaviour at RLXs. These studies measure driver behaviour through analysis of the vehicle data, situation awareness and eye-glance behaviour, in both regional and metropolitan settings with inexperienced and experienced driver groups. The studies demonstrated that there are fundamental differences in the crossing environment and infrastructure at passively controlled (give way and stop sign) and actively controlled crossings that shape driver head check behaviour and situation awareness. The team is now using Cognitive Work Analysis to analyse the RLX system in-depth. This is an innovative method to conceptualise and analyse complex socio-technical systems. These analyses will highlight areas where the current operation of RLXs may not be meeting the overall purpose and functions of the RLX system. The analyses will certainly lead to new ways of designing and operating RLXs that will be tested using driving simulation late in 2014.

Related research groups

Transportation Group
Railway accident
Railway crossing

Key Publication

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