Where do novice and experienced drivers direct their attention on approach to urban rail level crossings?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, mode - rail, mode - car, planning - safety/accidents, infrastructure - traffic signals


Rail level crossings, Road safety, On-road study, Instrumented vehicle, Novice drivers


Crashes at rail level crossings (RLXs) remain a persistent but ill-defined safety issue. In urban areas, RLXs are typically located in areas of high workload and visual clutter, such as busy shopping strips. Despite this, the impact of such environments on driver behaviour and compliance with RLX controls is not well understood. This study sought to examine where drivers direct their attention on approach to urban RLXs located in busy shopping strip areas, and whether this differs between novice and experienced drivers. Participants drove an instrumented vehicle around a pre-defined urban route containing several active (flashing light with boom barriers) RLXs. Drivers’ visual scanning behaviour and cognitive processes were examined on approach to RLXs. The results suggest that RLXs were not a key focus of drivers’ attention. Further, rather than actively scanning, participants were over-reliant on RLX warning signals and the behaviour of surrounding vehicles to alert them to the presence of both trains and RLXs. This study provides important insights into drivers’ visual and cognitive behaviour on approach to urban RLXs located in areas of high visual demand.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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