Civil and Environmental Engineering


Date of this Version

Summer 6-16-2016


Zhao, S. 2016. An Investigation of Motor Vehicle Driver Inattention and Its Effects at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings. PhD Dissertation. Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Civil Engineering (Transportation Systems Engineering), Under the Supervision of Professor Aemal J.Khattak. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Shanshan Zhao


The relationship between accident injury severity and drivers’ inattentive behavior requires an in-depth investigation – this is especially needed in the case of motor vehicle drivers at highway-rail grade crossings (HRGCs). The relationship between drivers’ personality/ socioeconomic characteristics and inattentive behavior at HRGCs is another topic requiring research. Past educational programs about safe driving at HRGCs have often not been designed to target people who may be in urgent need of such information, which may limit the effectiveness of those programs.

This dissertation thus focuses on the following four objectives: to investigate the association between motor vehicle inattentive driving and the severity of drivers’ injuries sustained in crashes reported at or near HRGCs; to investigate the association between drivers’ self-reported inattentive driving experience and a series of factors such as drivers’ knowledge of safe driving, attitudes towards safe driving, etc.; to identify driver groups that have lower or higher levels of knowledge of correct rail crossing negotiation; and to investigate the direct and indirect effects between drivers’ characteristics and their knowledge level as well as their involvement with inattentive driving behavior at HRGCs. The research obtained 12 years of police-reported crash data from the Nebraska Department of Roads and collected data in a statewide random-sample mail questionnaire survey. Statistical analysis methods, including random parameters binary logit model, confirmatory factor analysis, robust linear regression, multinomial logit model, and structural equation models were utilized in this research.

Conclusions are that inattentive driving plays a significant role in contributing to more severe injuries in accidents reported in proximity of HRGCs in Nebraska; Nebraska motor vehicle drivers’ personality traits, knowledge levels of negotiating HRGCs and driving experience are associated with inattentive driving; drivers with lower levels of knowledge of correct HRGC negotiation are: drivers who drive vehicles other than passenger cars, have received less safety information, have a shorter driving history, are older, have lower household income, and have higher intent to violate rules at rail crossings; inattentive driving behavior at HRGCs is directly and indirectly affected by their personality traits while drivers’ knowledge of correct HRGC negotiation appears to only have an indirect effect.

Advisor: Aemal J.Khattak