A systems approach to reducing trauma at rail level crossings
The continued occurrence of rail level crossing (RLX) collisions worldwide demonstrates that the longstanding problem is not being solved by current interventions. Existing solutions to the problem, such as grade separation and installation of boom gates at all crossings provide considerable safety improvements but can be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, this four-year research program funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project focused on identifying new and innovative approaches to improving RLX design. The research program adopted human factors and systems thinking approaches to the analysis and re-design of RLXs with the overall aim of developing and evaluating new designs to improve safety at RLXs.
The research program involved four phases.
Phase 1: Collection of data regarding existing RLX system functioning
Novel data were collected on system functioning and user behaviour at both ‘active’ and ‘passive’ RLXs. A range of data collection activities were undertaken including on-road studies of driver behaviour when driving through RLXs, cognitive task analysis interviews with drivers, a diary study of road user behaviour at RLXs, subject matter expert interviews, documentation review and in-cab train rides.
Phase 2: Systems thinking analyses of behaviour in existing RLX environments
The data collected in Phase 1 were used to build models of the RLX system using cognitive work analysis (CWA). Furthermore, hierarchical task analysis (HTA) was applied to understand the ‘tasks’ undertaken by humans and technology at RLXs.
Phase 3: Development and initial refinement of prototype RLX design concepts
Insights were extracted from the systems analyses and used in participatory design workshops involving stakeholders from the road and rail industries. Initial concepts underwent desktop evaluation and were refined to address potential issues. The workshops, involving RLX stakeholders, produced four prototype designs. In addition, two design concepts were generated by the research team, resulting in a total of six design concepts for evaluation.
Phase 4: Formal evaluation of design concepts
The six design concepts were evaluated in driving simulator studies and through a survey study of road users (including drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and heavy vehicle drivers).
- Rail level crossing behavioural assessments project
- Beanland, V., Grant, E., Read, G. J. M., Stevens, N., Thomas, M., Lenné, M. G., Stanton, N. A., & Salmon, P. M. (2018). Challenging conventional rural rail level crossing design: Evaluating three new systems thinking-based designs in a driving simulator. Safety Science, 110B, 100-114.
- Young, K. L., Lenne, M. G., Salmon, P. M., & Stanton, N. A. (2018). The impact of texting on driver behaviour at rail level crossings. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 118, 269-276.
- Salmon, P. M., Read, G. J. M., Walker, G. H., Goode, N., Grant, E., Dallat, C., Carden, T., Naweed, A., Stanton, N. A. (2018). STAMP goes EAST: integrating systems ergonomics methods for the analysis of railway level crossing safety management. Safety Science, 110B,31-46.
- Read, G. J. M., Stevens, E. L., Lenne, M. G., Stanton, N. A., Walker, G. H., Salmon, P. M. (2018). Walking the talk: Comparing pedestrian ‘activity as imagined’ with ‘activity as done’. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 113, 74-84.