Distracted motor vehicle driving at highway-rail grade crossings

Li Wei Tung, Aemal Khattak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Distracted driving of a motor vehicle increases a driver's susceptibility to crash involvement. Such driving in the vicinity of highway-rail grade crossings (HRGCs) is especially perilous because the distracted driver may not be aware of the presence of an approaching train. Train-involved motor vehicle crashes invariably cause more severe injuries and greater property damage than other motor vehicle crashes. Because distracted driving at HRGCs is somewhat underresearched, the objectives of this research were to (a) investigate the occurrence of distracted motor vehicle driving at HRGCs, (b) identify characteristics of those distracted motorists, and (c) ascertain empirically factors associated with distracted driving at HRGCs. Data were collected with video recordings at six HRGCs in Nebraska and were statistically analyzed. Results showed that about one-third of drivers observed at HRGCs were distracted. The presence of intersecting roads near the crossings increased distracted driving. Drivers of multiunit trucks at HRGCs were less often distracted than other drivers at HRGCs. The presence of front-seat passengers in vehicles significantly contributed to driver distraction. Findings from the research support the need for driver education about distracted driving at HRGCs. Enforcement of distracted driving laws at HRGCs as well as strengthening of existing laws may also reduce instances of distracted driving at HRGCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalTransportation Research Record
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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