Level Crossing Safety - the Driver´s Perspective and Related Needs

Level Crossing Safety - the Driver´s Perspective and Related Needs


N Klassen, ADAC, DE; J Menge, Ministry of Transport in Rheinland-Pfalz, DE; W Schäfer, DB AG, DE


The paper presents a framework for upgrading the safety of level crossings. It shows historical trends and related types of crossings, accident statistics and relevant surveys to address technical and behavioural issues.


Over the years air, energy, work and rail have implemented a fail safe system to achieve the highest safety standards as possible. The principle is that where humans act, safety must be in-built. This system is applied in general technical rail standards and train operation, but it is not applied in other areas such as platforms at stations and level crossings. The number of accidents and persons killed in total at level crossings is not very high, but the risk to get injured severely or killed is extremely high: Every fourth person involved in an accident is killed.

Nevertheless over the last 10 years the number of accidents and persons killed at level crossings has been reduced by more than 50% in some European countries. Other European countries such as the Czech republic do not follow that positive trend. Efforts have been made where road and rail operators have cooperated in setting up guidelines for inspections, conduct joint inspections and inform drivers about the correct behaviour at level crossings.

Comparisons between France, Poland , Czech Republic and Germany also show that the types of signalisations and the accident structure vary: The unsignalised level crossings are not necessarily the most risky crossings. This is different from what we know about road transport accidents statistics, where unsignalised crossings have higher risk. Therefore behaviour and rules on road rail crossings are to be examined.

Representative surveys show that the knowledge about the correct behaviour at level crossings is unsufficient: One third of the drivers in Germany for example do not correctly know the rules implicit with the St Andrews cross and the blinking warning lights. This will not always lead to incorrect or risky behaviour, but it leads to uncertainty and reduced confidence. The knowledge of highway code rules concerning road traffic lights and the related correct behaviour is much higher.

Due to the extremely high severity risk, the safety of level crossings must be upgraded. To achieve a further drop in the good performing countries and a drop in the low performing European countries, rail and road authorities have to work together. They must apply common inspection guidelines taking into account the fact that level crossings are intermodal crossings and therefore inspections have to consider both tracks and inspectors have to conduct inspections jointly. Level crossings must apply to these standards and new technical innovations should be trialled. On the other hand drivers must be informed about correct behaviour via automobile clubs and the press. The different national activities in Europe should be linked to learn from each other and cooperative projects such as the EU funded SELCAT are a good way forward.


Association for European Transport