Key Findings

Across both studies, there were 340 rail level crossing encounters: 120 at urban crossings, 132 at actively-controlled rural crossings and 88 at passively controlled rural crossings. Trains were present for 30% of urban encounters and 1% of rural encounters. No participants encountered trains at passive rail level crossings.

Urban Rail Level Crossings

Verbal protocol analyses revealed the most prominent concepts in drivers’ situation awareness networks on approach to rail level crossings (Young et al. 2015). These were compared between train-present and train-absent encounters, and between experienced and novice drivers, to reveal the areas of commonality and divergence. Less than one-third of concepts were shared between all networks. Only two of

Situation awareness networks for experienced and novice drivers on approach to rural Stop-controlled rail level crossings

FIGURE 4.3 Situation awareness networks for experienced and novice drivers on approach to rural Stop-controlled rail level crossings. Shaded circles represent distinct concepts, and lines represent connections between concepts.

these common concepts were related to the rail level crossing (i.e. ‘train’, ‘crossing’), with most shared concepts relating to the surrounding traffic environment (e.g. ‘cars’, ‘road’, ‘lane’, ‘lights’, ‘front’, ‘left’).

Examination of unique concepts revealed some notable differences as a function of driving experience and train presence. Experienced drivers attended to more diverse aspects of the environment, particularly non-car road users (e.g. pedestrians, trams), regardless of whether a train was approaching. Novice drivers demonstrated less attention towards non-car road users, and only mentioned the concepts related to monitoring of pedestrian traffic (e.g. ‘pedestrians’, ‘people’, ‘door’) when there was no train approaching. This suggests that the additional cognitive load of dealing with a train restricted novice drivers’ ability to monitor other road users.

Analyses of visual scanning behaviour revealed that drivers spent a great majority of their time (87%-91%) looking at the forward roadway when approaching rail level crossings, regardless of train presence or driving experience. Experienced drivers spent a greater proportion of time glancing at the rear-view mirror and footpath/ parking areas left and right of the road, whereas novice drivers spent more time looking at the speedometer and in-vehicle areas. These findings are consistent with the broader literature on eye movements in driving, which has demonstrated that drivers focus predominantly on the forward roadway, and that experienced drivers show more extensive horizontal scanning than novices (Chapman and Underwood 1998, Falkmer and Gregersen 2005, Underwood et al. 2002, Underwood 2007). It is also consistent with the verbal protocol analyses, suggesting that experienced drivers distribute their situation awareness more broadly, whereas novice drivers focus on their vehicle and forward vehicular traffic.

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