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An explorative analysis of pedestrian situation awareness at rail level crossings

Read, G, Salmon, P M, Lenne, M G (Peer reviewed)

Pedestrian Safety

ARSC conference 2015

Pedestrian safety at rail level crossings (RLXs) is a concern for governments and the community. There is sparse published literature, however, that has investigated pedestrian situation awareness when negotiating RLXs. This paper presents the findings from an exploratory study of pedestrian situation awareness at RLXs. Fifteen participants took part in a naturalistic study in which participants walked a pre-defined route in one of three urban environments, each of which incorporated two RLXs. Whilst walking the route participants wore video recording glasses and provided 'think aloud' verbal protocols describing the cognitive processes and decision making underpinning their behaviour. Analysis of the verbal protocols provided during the approach and traversal of the RLX was conducted using content analysis software as well as through manual analysis of the data. The analysis identified that pedestrian situation awareness was most commonly underpinned by concepts such as the 'railway crossing', the 'train' and other 'pedestrians'. Interestingly, concepts such as 'bells', 'flashing lights' and the 'pedestrian gate' were not prominent. This may reflect that most participants did not encounter the RLX when a train was approaching. However, concepts around checking for the train were prominent suggesting that many pedestrians may not simply rely on automatic warnings, but use their own judgement to make a decision about when it is safe to cross a RLX. Further findings, implications for RLX design, limitations and future research directions will be discussed.