A systems approach to reducing trauma at rail level crossings - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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A systems approach to reducing trauma at rail level crossings

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).

Related projects
  • Rail level crossing behavioural assessments project 
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