ACRI and KiwiRail are finalising the reports of two aligned projects evaluating the effects of a new active sign for passive level crossings.
The safety of level crossings is a high priority for Australia and New Zealand, with a particular focus on safety systems at passive level crossings. As part of a wider initiative to make level crossings safer, KiwiRail trialled a road-vehicle-activated ‘Expect Trains’ sign (see Figure) on the approach to level crossings, designed to increase the awareness of level crossing signage, increase the conspicuity of passive crossings, and improve drivers’ visual checking toward rail tracks for the purpose of detecting trains.
KiwiRail’s project focused on determining the effects of the signage on compliance and approach speeds, and evaluating the reliability of this active signage.
To support this work, ACRI proposed to run a project in parallel to evaluate the effects of the new active signage on driver gaze behaviour that would complement the findings of the already planned trial in New Zealand. ACRI has access to the expertise from researchers and equipment to evaluate the new interventions for level crossings, with a strong focus on safety. This study specifically focused on evaluating the effects of this active signage on drivers’ visual scanning and search behaviours to confirm whether ‘checking activity’ was increased at the trial site where the active signage was installed, compared to standard passive level crossing sites. It used a mixed-methodology, combining: objective gaze behaviour data measured using an eye tracking system, which records where drivers are looking when passing the active signs and on approach to the crossing at the trial sites compared to standard signage at baseline sites; and qualitative information to understand and contextualise drivers’ gaze behaviour.
The project was defined to address the needs from both KiwiRail and the ACRI Level Crossing Working Group. The synergies from this approach resulted in partners having access to a wider understanding of the signage effects compared to running an isolated trial. ACRI’s approach also guaranteed that both projects were complementary, running in parallel and provided outcomes in time for the partners’ timeline.