Comparison of Driver Behavior at Highway-Railroad Crossings in Two Cities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

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


Waverly (Nebraska), U turns, Traffic safety, Risk taking, Railroad grade crossings, Motor vehicle operators, Level crossings, Human behavior, Highway railroad grade crossings, Highway rail intersections, Grade crossings, Grade crossing signals, Grade crossing protection systems, Fremont (Nebraska), Drivers, Behaviour, Behavior, Barriers (Roads), Active grade crossing warning systems


This paper attempts to answer two questions pertaining to highway–railroad grade crossing (HRGC) safety. First, does unsafe driver behavior differ at HRGCs located in two cities? Second, is there a difference in drivers’ response to the same safety treatment at two HRGCs? The two HRGCs investigated are in Waverly and Fremont, Nebraska. Unsafe behaviors investigated at both locations were passing around closing or closed gates and making U-turns while waiting for trains to pass. The safety treatment used at the HRGCs was a barrier installed along the street center leading up to the gates that made it difficult for drivers to engage in unsafe maneuvers. Analysis of the collected data showed that drivers in Waverly engaged in more frequent gate passing compared with drivers in Fremont. Conversely, drivers in Fremont more frequently made U-turns at HRGCs. Installation of the barrier reduced gate passing and U-turns at both locations; the percentage of reductions in gate passing and U-turns at the two locations were comparable. Based on the results, the conclusions are that drivers’ unsafe behavior at HRGCs is location-dependent, but the order of magnitude of drivers’ response to the same safety treatment at different locations is quite similar.