Can rail pedestrian violations be deterred? An investigation into the threat of legal and non-legal sanctions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, ridership - behaviour, ridership - perceptions, planning - surveys, planning - safety/accidents


Trains, Pedestrian level crossings, Deterrence, Legal and non-legal sanctions


Collisions between trains and pedestrians continue to be the most likely accident to result in severe injuries and fatalities on the rail network. While a range of countermeasures have been utilised in an attempt to reduce the incidence of risky behaviours at level crossings, limited focus has been directed towards deterrence-based approaches to improve crossing safety. As a result, this study explored pedestrians’ perceptions of legal and non-legal sanctions at level crossings, with particular emphasis directed towards identifying factors that maximise perceptual deterrence and reduce the occurrence of rule violations. In total, 636 individuals volunteered to participate in the study that required completion of either an online or paper version of a questionnaire that focused on behaviours and perceptions. Participants were more likely to report intentionally violating level crossing rules (24.52%, n = 156) compared to making crossing errors (3.46%, n = 22). Knowledge of the possibility of sanctions (e.g., monetary fines) was low. The threat of being injured and feeling shame when breaching crossing rules were the highest reported perceptual deterrent factors, higher even than the certainty and severity of sanctions. Regression analysis revealed that males who had lower perceptions of certainty of apprehension and displayed a tendency to repeat the behaviour were most likely to deliberately break crossing rules. However, this group also recognised the physical risks of violating rules and that it breached social norms. In regards to identifying effective countermeasures, increasing police presence was considered the most effective approach to reduce violations, which is directly linked to deterrence processes such as increasing perceptual certainty. This paper will further outline the study findings in regards to perceptual deterrence-based research as well as provide direction for future research efforts to develop effective countermeasures designed to improve pedestrian safety.


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


Transportation Research Part F Home Page: