Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - vehicle, planning - safety/accidents, planning - surveys, ridership - drivers, ridership - behaviour, mode - rail


Traffic speed, Temple (Texas), Surveys, Strobes, Strobe light, Speed, Signs, Signing, Sign design, Safety measures, Safety, Railroad grade crossings, Public safety, Motor vehicles, Motor vehicle operators, Measures of effectiveness, Light, Level crossings, Human behavior, Highway railroad grade crossings, Highway rail intersections, Grade crossings, Grade crossing safety, Field studies, Field observation, Effectiveness, Drivers, Design, Data collection, Data acquisition, Behaviour, Behavior, Before and after studies, Awareness, Average travel speed, Automotive vehicles


More than 2,000 crashes and 239 fatalities were reported at public passive highway-railroad grade crossings in 1994. Driver error, often due to a breakdown in communication between the traffic control devices and the driver, is commonly cited as a factor in passive grade crossing crashes. The objective of this study was to evaluate an improved method for communicating with drivers in an effort to improve safety at passive grade crossings. Specifically, this study evaluated the effectiveness of a vehicle-activated strobe light and supplemental sign as enhancements to the railroad advance (W10-1) warning sign at a passive highway-railroad grade crossing near Temple, Texas. Three study methods were used to evaluate this enhanced sign system including a before and after speed study, a driver survey, and a driver observation study. The results indicated that average speeds on the approaches to the grade crossing were lower after the installation of the enhanced sign system. Drivers responded favorably to the enhanced sign system, and no adverse driver reactions were observed at the onset of the flashing strobe light. The strobe light was effective in directing drivers' attention to the railroad advance warning and supplemental signs. The enhanced sign system appears to increase driver awareness of the passive grade crossing, cause some drivers to approach the grade crossing with additional caution, and reduce the average speed near the nonrecovery zone on both approaches.