The impact of texting on driver behaviour at rail level crossings

Kristie L. Young, Michael G. Lenné, Paul M. Salmon, Neville A. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd A driver text messaging in the vicinity of a rail level crossing represents the merging of a high-risk, high-workload driving environment with a highly distracting secondary task. In this simulator study, we examined how texting impacts driver behaviour on approach to actively controlled urban rail level crossings. Twenty-eight participants drove a series of simulated urban routes containing rail level crossings, while sending text messages and while driving without performing a secondary task. At half of the crossings, drivers were required to respond to the crossing warnings as a train approached. Results revealed that texting on approach to rail level crossings had a detrimental impact on a range of driver behaviour measures. Specifically, texting more than doubled the amount of time spent with eyes off the forward roadway, resulting in drivers spending more than half of their approach time to rail level crossings looking away from the road. This lack of visual attention to the roadway was associated with a range of decrements in driving that may be indicative of a loss of situation awareness, including increased brake reaction time to the crossing warnings and a reduction in lateral position control. The findings have safety implications, not only for urban level crossings, but also for passive level crossings where no warnings are present to re-orient the distracted driver's attention toward an approaching train.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Driver distraction
  • Mobile (cell) phone
  • Rail level crossings
  • Text messaging

Cite this