Prevalence and dynamics of distracted pedestrian behaviour at railway level crossings: Emerging issues

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, mode - pedestrian, ridership - behaviour, planning - safety/accidents, place - australasia


Safety, Road, Rail, Distraction, Mobile devices, Vulnerable road users


Recent increases in pedestrian collisions have led to several studies investigating the effects of distraction on pedestrian behaviour at road intersections. Although distraction has been identified as a contributing factor to pedestrian crashes at railway crossings, only limited research is available regarding the prevalence of this behaviour occurring at railway level crossings. It is, therefore, essential to better understand distraction prevalence at railway crossings to support the use of countermeasures to improve safety outcomes. We conducted field observations at a railway crossing in Brisbane, Australia and its adjacent road intersection to gauge the prevalence of distracted pedestrians. Overall, 585 pedestrians were observed and video recorded during the daytime. The video recordings were coded to estimate the prevalence of distraction behaviour that road users engaged in, factors that affected these proportions, and dynamic changes in behaviour. Compliance with signals was also analysed. We found distraction behaviours such as talking and looking at the mobile screen (41.9%) while walking to be prevalent and affected by age. Highly distractive tasks were found to be less commonplace at the railway crossing, accounting for 3% of the observations. Still, pedestrians at the railway crossing engaged in these highly distractive tasks on their phones for a much longer period of time. While most non-compliances (with traffic lights) occurred among attentive pedestrians and are likely to be intentional, non-compliances by distracted pedestrians were also observed, highlighting that distraction can lead to unsafe decisions or lack of decisions that result in unsafe behaviours. Finally, distraction was found to be a dynamic phenomenon as a few pedestrians stopped engaging in distractive tasks once they reached the crossing, while others engaged in more distractive tasks once they were on the road or crossing. Our study shows that pedestrian distraction is a prevalent issue at railway crossings and future research is required to further understand and mitigate this changing behaviour.


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


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