Pat Latter - NFA Innovations (RLX White Paper RBI)

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Pat Latter, Executive Director, NFA Innovations delivered this paper at the Rail Safety Conference 2014. Rail Safety 2014 brought together the key national decision-makers to deliver new ideas and develop innovative ways to leverage technology for safer outcomes.

For more information, please visit http://www.railsafetyconference.com.au/rs14

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Pat Latter - NFA Innovations (RLX White Paper RBI)

  1. 1. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au Level Crossing Safety- Complex Issues, one Clear Solution. Introduction The need to ensure integrated, efficient and affordable transport modes for moving people and importantly freight is unquestioned. While air and sea transport are important, it is land transport links that are the arteries – carrying the overwhelming majority of freight and conveying millions of people every day in their family, professional and social lives. The challenge remains in transporting the products to an ever more competitive market place in a safe and efficient manner. In effect - “A safe land transport system that meets mobility, social and economic objectives with maximum safety for its users1”. Level crossings are the physical interface between the road and rail transport systems, both of which operate as entirely separate entities. That is, they have different rules, procedures and characteristics in terms of operational constraints and neither generally has advance knowledge of when the other will be encountered at the road/rail interface. The challenge has been to understand why motorists do not give way to trains and there are numerous human factor studies that have been conducted worldwide over the past 40 years to determine the reasons. The conclusions are that existing protections are subject to human frailties.2 In 2002, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report into Level Crossing safety highlighting the Human Factors aspect associated with these accidents. Considerable evidence highlights that the Human Factors causal profile of level crossing accidents is quite different from other road accidents. The majority of level crossing accidents do not involve behaviour such as excessive speed, drug and alcohol impairment, or other forms of risk taking. Rather, fatal accidents at level crossings are caused most frequently by inadvertent driver error (ATSB, 2002).3 1 National Railway Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2010-2020 Australian Transport Council 2 Study of drivers’ behaviour at passive railroad-highway grade crossings Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506 With co-operation by Kansas Department Of Transportation - August 2007 3 ATSB. (2002). Level Crossing Accidents. Canberra, Australia: Australian Transport Safety Bureau
  2. 2. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au If driver error is the cause of these accidents, then any solution must specifically target these issues. Significant endeavours to improve level crossing safety are currently underway or proposed by a variety of committees assigned by various Governments and organisations. These endeavours are looking at risk controls however, (arguably) the approach seems to be finding a solution for the problem when, in many cases, the causes of the problem(s) have not been defined4. This white paper focusses on a strategy to create a system in which those mistakes do not result in death or serious injury. This includes recognising the Human Factors associated with negotiating crossings, understanding the causes of error and using science to aid in developing solutions. 4 Department of Transport and Main Roads, Rail Safety Investigation QT2459, 2009 OTTAWA - Federal transportation safety officials have been urging the government for over a decade to do more to prevent the kind of level- crossing crash that claimed at least six lives in Ottawa. "The risk of passenger trains colliding with vehicles remains too high in busy rail corridors," the safety board says in a notice on its website. According to the Transportation Safety Board, in the last 5 years there have been 947 railroad crossing collisions in Canada.
  3. 3. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au The problem Rail Level Crossings remain a high-risk interface between rail and other modes of surface transport. Collisions typically involve serious injury; frequently involve fatalities, and are associated with significant personal, organisational, and governmental cost. Furthermore, the derailment of locomotives and train carriages causes significant network delays and damages in excess of tens of millions of dollars every time.5 Although such collisions are still very rare relative to the total movements of trains and large road vehicles, the potential for significant crashes involving trains (particularly those carrying passengers) in such situations is an issue of obvious concern. Level crossing crashes are nearly always a result of road user behaviour. The major problems for road users at railway level crossings appear to be6  Complacency — associated with attributions (beliefs and knowledge) about the road transport network, rail movements and train capabilities, and the timing and operation of railway crossing signals  Late detection of hazard — arising from lapses or errors, and is the most critical problem faced by a road user. Without detection there can be no processing of information, and no decision process as to the most appropriate response. For the most part we typically use visual warnings as protection at level crossings. These are either active (flashing lights) or passive (signs). Things such as vehicle insulation and sound systems often prevent drivers from hearing audible warnings. Visual warnings rely on the driver to be concentrating and interpreting the warning in a timely manner. The problem is that this does not take place in isolation nor as a highly focused activity, but amidst other distractions. Though a driver’s ability to simultaneously pay attention to the different aspects of the driving environment is limited, various recent researches (e.g. Stutts et al., 20037) on driver distraction demonstrates that distraction is not unusual but quite typical within a normal driving scenario. While individual road users are expected to be responsible for complying with traffic laws and behaving in a safe manner, it can no longer be assumed that the burden of road safety responsibility simply rests with the individual road user. Many organisations – the ‘system managers’ – have a primary responsibility to provide a safe operating environment. 5 Australasian Railway Association 6 Australian Transport Safety Bureau 7 Stutts et al. (2003) - Sources of Driver Distraction Europe: ERA says level crossing accidents up by 11% & casualties up by 20% in 2012 The European Rail Agency (ERA) has released statistics for 2012, including level crossing accidents, which saw an 11% year-to- year increase in 2012; this constitutes a substantial share of the total number of significant accidents. European Union (EU) Member States reported that 373 level-crossing users were killed and 336 were seriously injured in a total of 573 accidents occurring on more than 114,120 level crossings in the EU. The number of level crossing user casualties (fatalities and serious injuries) increased by 20% in 2012, a reversal in an otherwise decreasing trend registered over the past five years.
  4. 4. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au Each has a role in building a culture where safety is an inherent part of all decision making affecting the system, its operation and its use. In essence, level crossings are the physical interface between the road and rail transport systems, both of which operate as entirely separate entities. That is, they have different rules, procedures and characteristics in terms of operational constraints and neither generally has advance knowledge of when the other will be encountered at the road/rail interface. However, even though it is acknowledged that road and rail users have a duty to mitigate the risk of a collision, they cannot control actions of all others nor mitigate each other’s risks. It is reasonable to assume that the decision makers understand, or ought to understand, that Human Factors need to be considered in their risk analysis of crossings. Highway-rail grade crossing collisions occur approximately every 2 hours in the U.S. (FRA)
  5. 5. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au The Human Factor Level crossing crashes are nearly always a result of road user behaviour and while some research has been done in this area, little has been done to link the effectiveness of risk controls and human behaviour8. While individual drivers are expected to be responsible for complying with traffic laws and behaving in a safe manner, it can no longer be assumed that the burden of road safety responsibility simply rests with the individual road user. Humans will always make mistakes no matter how informed and compliant they are. A number of Human Factors issues have been shown to form part of accident causation of rail level crossings;9 these include:  Inattentional Blindness – whereby absence of attention leads to a failure to perceive an object that is in plain sight. This phenomena is well document, and has also been termed “looked but failed to see” with respect to level crossing accidents.  Expectation – it is well known that expectation guides our behaviour, sometimes more strongly that environmental stimuli. For road users who have the expectation that no train will be present at a crossing, the likelihood of failure to respond to traditional crossing protection is increased.  Perceptual Limitations – whilst we as humans gather the majority of our information through visual perception, our vision systems are subject to interference from common environmental factors such as sun glare.  Speed and Distance Perception – accurate decisions with respect to proceeding across a level crossing involves a complex perceptual process of relative speed and distance involving two objects that are converging at different speeds and often at angles that are not truly perpendicular. This perceptual and decision-making process is highly vulnerable to error. Inattentional Blindness Research by Green, M. & Senders, J. (2004)10 has shown that in road accidents critical/important information may have been detectible but the motorist did not attend to or notice it because their mental resources were elsewhere. Furthermore, research by Mack, A. & Rock, I. (1998)11 into a phenomenon known as ‘inattentional blindness’ has shown how a person may fail to detect an object even though they were looking directly at it. The human mind has limited resources for perceptual and memory processing. To cope with this limitation, a mechanism called ‘attention’ acts as a filter to focus this resource on specific tasks. Research suggests that inattentional blindness can occur when attention is mistakenly filtered away from important information and can be affected by mental workload, expectation, conspicuity and capacity. It is quite possible that a driver’s attention is focused in the direction of highest perceived risk, e.g. an upcoming junction and that their attention may be focused on oncoming road traffic. This action may draw their attention away from the railway line which has relatively infrequent traffic compared to the roadway. 8 Department of Transport and Main Roads, Rail Safety Investigation QT2459, 2009 9 Wallace, A., McCusker, L., & Hirsch, L. (2008). Level Crossings Research Database. Brisbane, Australia: CRC for Rail Innovation. 10 Green, M. & Senders, J. (2004). Human error in road accidents 11 Mack, A. & Rock I.; 1998; Inattentional Blindness
  6. 6. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au Expectation A factor which also influences the behaviour of road users at level crossings is their expectation of encountering a train (NTSB 1998). If the motorist does not expect to encounter a train they may simply not look for one and behave accordingly. The road user’s perception that a train is unlikely to be at a crossing is reinforced every time the motorist uses the crossing without seeing a train. Research has found that an individual’s response to a possible hazard is influenced by both the perceived probability of the adverse event occurring and of that individual’s understanding of the severity of the consequence of the event. A person’s perception of the probability of a given event is strongly influenced by past experience (Schoppert and Hoyt, 196812 cited in NTSB, 1998), and the frequency with which they encounter a train at a level crossing will influence the likelihood of the motorist stopping (NTSB, 1998). If the road user does not expect to encounter a train they may simply not look for one and behave accordingly or they may look but not see a train because they were not expecting to see one. It is possible that that this applies equally to level crossings with which they are familiar or new ones where they may transfer their experience from familiar crossings. Perceptual Limitations As the control measures at Level Crossings are largely visual based, a driver’s ability to see the devices and interpret the desired response in a timely manner is critical for them to be an effective control. Whilst sun glare has been found to be a contributing factor in some collisions, other issues such as masking (vegetation, buildings, signs and etc.), dust, fog, snow or rain have been factors that have affected the visibility of the warning devices, signs or conspicuity of the approaching train. Speed and Distance Perception Road users are often unable to judge the speed and distance of an approaching train, which can result in the road user attempting to cross the tracks before a train arrives at the crossing. There are two phenomena which relate to misjudgement of train speed and distance. The first relates to the fact that as an object approaches a viewer, the growth in size is not linear but hyperbolic, meaning that at distance an approaching object appears to grow quite slowly. As the object gets closer, it appears to grow much faster and looms. The result of this with a train approaching a level crossing is that road users are able to estimate the speed of a train more effectively when it is close because of the rapid change in visual angle. When the train is much further away, road users are more likely to underestimate the speed of the train due to the slow change in visual angle. The second phenomenon relates to the human perceptual issue of the large object illusion. Leibowitz (1985)13 suggests that road users underestimate the speed of trains as, in general, human vision and perception underestimates the speed of large objects. Leibowitz gives the example of how a large aircraft approaching a runway appears to move slowly, while a small aircraft travelling at the same speed appears to moving much faster. In addition to these phenomena, when a road user is close to a crossing, they tend to view the train virtually head- on. This results in there being minimal lateral motion which is an important visual cue in the perception of the speed of the train. Given these limitations of perception, it is possible that as a driver nears the crossing they see the train approaching but misjudge the speed and distance of the train and feel table to make it over the crossing before the train arrives. 12 Schoppert and Hoyt, 1968 - Factors influencing safety at highway-rail grade crossings 13 Leibowitz, H. W. (1985). Grade crossing accidents and human factors engineering
  7. 7. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au Options The common mitigation strategies often employed by system Managers are crossing upgrades, grade separation and advertising campaigns. Bridges The most popular request is to ‘Grade separate’ the crossing, that is, to build a bridge over or a tunnel under the tracks. The average cost is $50 million, depending on required right-of-way acquisition and site characteristics.14 Crossing upgrades Upgrading crossings is largely determined by individual requirements and could include  Full active protection  Boom gates  Clearing sight lines along the road and rail  Active and passive advanced warnings  Lighting  Straightening roadway approaches The average cost is circa $500,000 and can run to over $1 million, depending on required right-of-way acquisition, availability of adequate power supplies and site characteristics.15 Education The most common education strategies centre on advertising campaigns. These are often targeted at the most vulnerable users and risky behaviour. An example is the recent ‘Dumb Ways to Die ‘campaign16 by Metro Trains, Melbourne Australia in the fourth (4th) quarter of 2012. This campaign won a number of advertising awards and went viral across the Internet in a short space of time. Unfortunately, whilst this advertising was fresh and the messages were quite clear, incidents failed to decrease during the 4th quarter and actually increased in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2013. Near misses at level crossings in Victoria, Australia by quarter (Transport Safety Victoria 2013) The statistics suggest that the campaign has failed in its objectives. The education process is taking place in isolation rather than at the crossing interface and does not take the Causation Factors into consideration. 14 National Cooperative Highway Research Program. Report 500, Vol 10: A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Pedestrians. Transportation Research Board. Washington, D.C. 2004. 15 National Cooperative Highway Research Program. Report 500, Vol 10: A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Pedestrians. Transportation Research Board. Washington, D.C. 2004. 16 http://dumbwaystodie.com/
  8. 8. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au The proven solution Whilst it is well acknowledged that removing the crossing by Grade separation (bridges or tunnels) is the best solution, the costs ($50 Million per crossing) are unaffordable. We need to change the way we think and act about level crossing safety. As it is the Human Factor that is the root cause of the problem; solutions must be targeted at overcoming this vulnerability. For the most part we typically use visual warnings as protection at level crossings. These are either active (flashing lights) or passive (signs). If these visual warning devices were augmented with a verbal warning, then compliance is much more likely. There is research that indicates that the use of vocal warnings as a supplement to visual warnings is effective in producing compliance.17 Compliance to a warning is over five times more likely when a vocal warning is given compared to when a print warning is given. Further, a vocal warning in addition to a print warning was six times more likely to result in compliance than a print warning alone. The development of this strategy has required looking at how level crossing safety can be improved by augmenting the existing protection devices. This includes recognising the Human Factors associated with negotiating crossings, understanding the causes of error and using science to develop mitigation methodology. Using this methodology, Engineers and Human Factors experts worked together and developed the ‘radio break-in' system. This methodology focussed on an auditory warning system developed around an appropriately understood concept of the road user (their characteristics, tasks in which they are engaged in, and the context of their immediate surrounding environment). An auditory warning that continuously strives to resonate with the various complex in-vehicle demands or needs of the driver, will only naturally improve its level of user-acceptance. The technology operates by a transmitter sending a signal that is detected by the existing vehicles sound system. The signal overrides normal audio and broadcasts a warning message through the vehicles speaker system and even operates when these devices are switched off. Volume levels are fixed at 75 dB(A) which has been proven to maximise attention without startling drivers. The technology features an integrated fail to safe system which cannot be switched off or overridden by users. This same technology is also appropriate for pedestrians and cyclists using mobile phones and portable entertainment devices. The key purpose of the design was to provide a mechanism to overcome the major problems for drivers at railway level crossings. Extensive Human Factors research has been done in this area to link the effectiveness of this risk control and human behaviour. 17 (Wogalter, Rashid, Clarke, & Kalsher, 1991; Wogalter & Young, 1991). Wogalter, et al. (1991) Coronial findings into Kerang rail disaster Coroner Jane Hendtlass says with the increasing size and speed of modern trains and road vehicles involved in level crossing collisions, Victorians can expect more severe injuries and deaths arising from level crossing collisions. The coroner wants in vehicle warning systems established whereby radios in cars and trucks automatically receive a warning that a train is approaching
  9. 9. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au The technology has been specifically designed to target the causal factors associated with level crossing accidents; these include:18 Complacency — a clearly spoken warning to drivers that a train is at, or approaching the crossing has a positive effect on otherwise complacent attitudes and behaviour. Late detection of hazard — if motorists are given more time to react to potentially dangerous situations, the decisions taken are improved. They are informed of the presence of a train, not just that they are approaching a crossing and prior to, rather than at the intersection. Inattentional Blindness – the application of the auditory warning at the appropriate time has been proven to restore a driver’s attention to the crossing protections. Effectively, distractions are removed and replaced by a warning to refocus attention at the desirable time. Attention is restored to negotiating the crossing. Expectation –when road users receive a verbal warning, the expectation that a train is unlikely to be present at the crossing is overturned and appropriate behaviour is restored. Perceptual Limitations – the audible warning augments the visual protections and provides positive reinforcement as to the desired behaviour. Speed and Distance Perception – a verbal warning at the appropriate time effectively takes the guess work out of negotiating the crossing and provides an instruction to drivers on approach. In a 2011 study of the auditory warning carried out by University of South Australia19, researchers concluded that The simulator study has clearly demonstrated a positive effect of the advance auditory warning on driver behaviour at rail level crossings. The presence of the auditory warning consistently resulted in earlier deceleration on approach to level crossings when compared to the control condition, and appears to have facilitated compliance with existing forms of level crossing protection. The auditory warning was demonstrated to provide an easily detected signal that augments existing controls. Moreover, the auditory warning specifically targets known risk factors such as inattentional blindness and erroneous expectation, both of which have been identified as causal factors for unsafe behaviours at level crossings. The Radio Break-in technology has been proven through a number of studies and trials and offers Industry the most cost effective means to reduce rail crossing incidents in the short to medium term. The return on investment analysis has proven substantial benefits for not only the Rail Industry, but Land transport in general. “A safe land transport system that meets mobility, social and economic objectives with maximum safety for its users20”. For more information contact the Author Mr Pat Latter, Executive Director NFA Innovations Pty Ltd, Queensland, Australia p. 61 7 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au 18 Rail Level Crossing – Radio Break-In Project http://media.wix.com/ugd/83648b_2048bcb08c039f37e2780027c6f1f040.pdf 19 Dr Matthew J W Thomas, Ganesh Balakrishnan, Larissa Clarkson & Anjum Naweed Human Factors Group - University of South Australia - Rail Level Crossing – Radio Break-In Project 20 National Railway Level Crossing Safety Strategy 2010-2020 Australian Transport Council
  10. 10. nfainnovationsABN: 72 122 794 021 85 Colchester Crescent Kirwan, Queensland, 4817 Australia | p. +617 4773 6999 | e. pat@nfain.com.au Useful links Subject Link NFA Innovations Website www.nfainnovations.net Human Factors report http://media.wix.com/ugd/83648b_2048bcb08c039f37e2780027c6f1f040.pdf Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGvz1V4vJlM

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