How Drivers Understand Safe Behaviour and Perceive Risks at Passive Railway-Road Level Crossings

Juha Luoma*, 1, Mikko Poutanen2
1 VTT Technical Research Centre, P.O. Box 1000, 02044 VTT, Finland
2 Ramboll Finland, Ramboll Finland Ltd., P.O. Box 3, 02241 Espoo, Finland

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Creative Commons License
© 2011 Luoma and Poutanen;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the VTT Technical Research Centre, P.O. Box 1000, 02044 VTT, Finland; Tel: +358207224533; Fax: +358207227000; E-mail:


This study was designed to investigate how drivers assess safety issues at passive railway-road level crossings. The study was limited to traditional and relatively inexpensive safety measures. Fifty-six car and van drivers were interviewed after passive level crossings with low traffic volume. Both key requirements of safe behaviour (i.e. decrease of speed and looking for trains) were indicated by 36-71% of drivers depending on the classification of responses. This result suggests that a substantial percentage of drivers have no proper concept of safe behaviour at level crossings. Another important result was that drivers found the crossing of main roads to be more difficult than crossing passive railway-road level crossings - despite the fact that they considered the latter to be more dangerous. This suggests that the drivers estimated the crash risk at railway-road level crossings to be relatively low, although they know that it is dangerous in general. Furthermore, the drivers suggested that the conspicuity of level crossings could be improved by increasing lateral visibility early enough and with advance warning signs. The drivers also suggested that caution could be increased with the use of STOP signs, improving the visibility of road signs and increasing the lateral visibility of tracks. The results suggest that there are several potential safety measures that could support drivers.

Keywords: Railway-road grade crossing, drivers, traffic safety, behaviour, interviews.