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The investigation of distracted driving at highway-rail grade crossings

Li-Wei Chris Tung, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Crashes at highway-rail grade crossings (HRGC) continue to be the leading cause of casualties in the HRGC industry. Many crashes are the result of distracted driving at HRGCs. Distracted motor vehicle driving at HRGCs increases drivers' susceptibility to crash involvement and the consequences of HRGC crashes are usually more severe compared to crashes at non-HRGC locations. Hence, at present there is limited information available on the frequency of distracted driving at HRGCs, characteristics of distracted motorists at HRGCs, and other associated factors. This research addressed two objectives: 1) the occurrence of distracted driving at HRGCs using distracted driving data collected from field video footage, in order to identify driver, roadway, environment, and crossing characteristics associated with distracted driving at HRGCs, and 2) estimation of an accident injury severity model representing the relation between crash severity and driver distraction by using accident data reported in the vicinity of HRGCs. The first research objective relied on driver distraction data extracted from video footage recorded at six different HRGCs by using cameras that captured drivers' activities while driving over the HRGCs. The data were statistically analyzed to investigate the factors associated with it. For the second objective, the state HRGC accident history data consisting of distracted driving coded as a crash contributor was used to develop an accident model representing the correlation between driver distraction and crash severity. Results showed that visual distraction was associated with three factors. Of these factors, the nearby intersections and wet/icy pavements tended to increase visual distractions. Female drivers were more often involved in manual distractions than male drivers. Four factors were associated with cognitive distractions. Accompanying passengers were found to be the most significant factor for the cognitive distraction. Distracted driving played a role in injury severity. Driver age, HRGC location, paved highway, maximum train speed, daily train movement, 5-year accident history, and nighttime were associated with crash injury severity. Of these factors, only paved highway and daily train movement were associated with reduced injury severity. The research presented in this dissertation shows evidence that distracted driving plays an important role in crash injury severity.

Subject Area

Civil engineering|Transportation planning

Recommended Citation

Tung, Li-Wei Chris, "The investigation of distracted driving at highway-rail grade crossings" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3646044.