Driver compliance and noncompliance at actively protected highway-railroad grade crossings

Date of Completion

January 2005


Psychology, Industrial|Transportation




Three studies explored determinants of driver responses to dynamic warning systems simulated for highway-railroad grade crossings. The first study examined the extent to which variations in warning signal reliability affect participants' responses. Results showed that participants were sensitive to the manipulation in that when the warning system reliability was reduced, valid stop rates decreased and gate violations increased. In a second study, participants drove on a simulated driving course and encountered 24 highway railroad grade crossings. Warning system provided four system states: proper activation, false activation, proper inactivation, and failure to activate. Driver compliance with warning system was assessed. Results showed detrimental effects of reduced warning reliability on compliance with warnings. Overall, participants tended to adopt lenient response criteria. However, there is some evidence that participants' trust in the warning system increased as reliability of the warning system increased. In a final study, individual differences in thinking styles and judgments about grade crossing scenes were examined. Although thinking styles were not related to compliance with warnings, results of judgment analysis showed that drivers' expectations about train arrival are related to their likelihood judgments concerning proceeding through a gated grade crossing. Taken together, these three studies are consistent with Meyer's (2004) model concerning determinants of responses to warnings. Results of this research include improved understanding of the determinants of operator's responses warnings, which should help in the design of better dynamic warning systems. ^