From the bush to the burbs: an on-road study of driver situation awareness at rural and urban railway level crossings
The problem of collisions between road users and trains at rail level crossings (RLXs) remains resistant to current countermeasures. One factor underpinning these collisions is poor Situation Awareness (SA) on behalf of the road user involved (i.e. not being aware of an approaching train). Although this is a potential threat at any RLX, the factors influencing SA may differ depending on whether the RLX is located in a rural or urban road environment. Despite this, there has been no empirical investigation regarding how road user SA might differ across distinct RLX environments. This knowledge is needed to establish the extent to which a uniform approach to RLX design and safety is acceptable. The aim of this paper is to investigate the differences in driver SA at rural versus urban RLXs. We present analyses of driver SA in both rural and urban RLX environments based on two recent on-road studies undertaken in Victoria, Melbourne. The findings demonstrate that driver SA is markedly different at rural and urban RLXs, and also that poor SA regarding approaching trains may be caused by different factors. The implications for RLX design and safety are discussed.