Pedestrian and bicyclist behavior at Highway-Rail grade crossings: An observational study of factors associated with violations, distraction, and crossing speeds during train crossing events

Brendan J. Russo, Emmanuel James, Taylor Erdmann, Edward J. Smaglik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Pedestrian-train collisions at highway-railroad grade crossings (HRGCs), though relatively rare events, often result in severe injuries or fatalities. In the ten year period from 2008-2017, there were 1,470 pedestrian-train collisions reported in the United States resulting in 908 fatalities and 492 injuries according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Furthermore, pedestrians in over 27% of these crashes were coded as disregarding gates at HRGCs, indicating unsafe behavior at these crossings may lead to crashes. In order to examine this behavior (for both pedestrians and bicyclists) and add to the body of knowledge for this topic, this observational study utilized pedestrian and bicyclist behavior data extracted from videos of HRGCs. Several pedestrian and bicyclist behavior characteristics were extracted including the prevalence of pedestrian and bicyclist violation (e.g., disregarding active devices), pedestrian and bicyclist distraction, and pedestrian and bicyclist crossing speeds. Using these data, along with rail-grade crossing features, train crossing parameters, and demographic data, statistical analyses were performed to examine factors significantly associated with pedestrian and bicyclist violations, distraction, and crossing speeds at HRGCs. Ultimately, the results of this study provide important information which may be useful in planning strategies to mitigate the impacts of unsafe pedestrian or bicyclist behavior at HRGCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Transportation Safety and Security
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • Bicyclist Behavior
  • Distraction
  • Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
  • Pedestrian Behavior
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Safety Research

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