An Evaluation of Retro-Reflective Screens to Aid Conspicuity of Freight Trains at Passive-Control Level Crossings
ACRS, DOI:10.33492/JRS-D-21-00007, https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-21-00007
Submission Date: May 13, 2021 Journal
Suggested Citation: Thompson, J., Baldock, M. and Stokes, C. (2021). An Evaluation of Retro-Reflective Screens to Aid Conspicuity of Freight Trains at Passive-Control Level Crossings. Journal of Road Safety, 32(2), 22-29. https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-21-00007
Freight trains already passing through level crossings in rural areas at night can be difficult for approaching motorists to see. Crashes can occur if the crossing has ‘passive’ controls (Give way/Stop signs) and motorists fail to stop. Retroreflective screens on the far side of the crossing to motorists that reflect headlights and produce a ‘strobing’ effect between carriages could increase train conspicuity. A prototype screen was applied to a crossing in South Australia. Four videos of freight trains at night from the perspective of an approaching vehicle (conditions: high versus low beam headlights, screen versus no screen) were recorded and used in a reaction time experiment with N=29 drivers. Mean reaction times to the four videos were examined using multivariate analysis of variance. Results were mixed. With high beam headlights, the screen led to shorter reaction times, which suggests it increased train visibility. With low beam headlights, it led to longer reaction times, which suggests it reduced train visibility or that it confused drivers. The detrimental effect of the screen with low beam headlights could be, at least partly, due to methodological limitations relating to differences between trains in the videos, the instructions given to participants, and the degree to which the experiment replicated real-world driver behaviour. However, the screen may genuinely have confused or distracted participants and may do so in realworld conditions. Further experimental testing would be required to determine whether the results in low beam conditions persist when potential methodological limitations are addressed.