Driver behavior at rail-highway grade crossings : a signal detection theory analysis
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Driver behavior at rail-highway grade crossings : a signal detection theory analysis

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    • NTL Classification:
      NTL-RAIL TRANSPORTATION-RAIL TRANSPORTATION ; NTL-RAIL TRANSPORTATION-Rail Safety ; NTL-RAIL TRANSPORTATION-Railroad Highway Grade Crossings ;
    • Abstract:
      Signal Detection Theory (SDT) is often used in studies of sensory psychology and perception to describe laboratory experiments in which subjects are asked to detect small changes in very wellcontrolled, precisely defined stimuli such as the intensity of a monochromatic light or the frequency of a pure tone. Consequently, it may seem odd that such a theory can be of any practical use in describing the situation that occurs when the driver of an automobile approaches a grade crossing and must decide whether it is safe to drive across the railroad track(s). Locomotives and trains are not well-controlled and precisely defined stimuli like those used in the sensory laboratory. By comparison with the stimulus changes used in the laboratory, a locomotive surely represents an enormous potential change in the sensory environment of the automobile driver. Why then is this theory applicable to the driver at the grade crossing? The answer to this question lies in an examination of the types of accidents that occur at grade crossings which suggest that motorists have difficulty with the tasks of detecting trains and related decision-making at grade crossings. For instance, motorists regularly drive into the side of passing trains at grade crossings and drive directly in front of approaching trains at close range. These accidents suggest that an examination of the grade crossing from the perspective of SDT and human information processing may provide a useful model for analysis, research, and the development of new strategies for grade crossing accident prevention.
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