Sensing Safety at Grade Crossings

C. McGlynn, H. Zhang
Rowan University,
United States

Keywords: railroad, grade crossing, safety, sensor


Over 6,000 accidents a year in the U.S. involving cars and trains. Most occur at unmarked, grade crossings at night. A train moving at 60mph needs more than mile to stop, but a car traveling the same speed can stop in less than 200' on average. If drivers were alerted that a collision is imminent they should be able to react in time. We believe that the DOT and NHTSA would be interested in this technology. According to the US Dept. of Transportation there are nearly 6,000 train-vehicle collisions annually. These accidents are responsible for thousands of injuries and over 600 fatalities in a given year. The majority of these accidents occur at unmarked railroad crossings. Installing (and testing/maintaining) proper markings at all RR crossings is so cost prohibitive that it has never been seriously considered. Most of these crossing accidents occur by one of two primary causes. 1) At night, cars drive into moving trains in part because the majority of crossings are not marked and it is believed that driver fatigue and sometimes unfamiliarity with the area also play a role in these incidents. 2) During the day, trains hit cars that try to “beat them” or get stuck for various reasons. This often involves a lack of situational awareness. Many people also fail to understand that trains need over one-mile to stop. Even though the Engineer can see the problem ahead the train simply cannot stop in time to avoid a collision. The technology we are developing could activate any and all of the car’s existing dash lamps to alert the driver of this unique and serious danger. By using the vehicle’s existing dash lights, final cost would be minimized and deployment expedited due to the given compatibility and rationalization of the OBD II system. Drivers would be alerted via flashing dash lights. They would begin to flash when the ARAD™ detects that it is within 1000m of an active track (and closing). This is more than sufficient to stop even at 80mph, which requires approximately 325’.