Why has safety improved at rail-highway grade crossings?

Shannon C. Mok, Ian Savage*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The number of collisions and fatalities at rail-highway intersections in the United States has declined significantly over the past 30 years, despite considerable increases in the volume of rail and highway traffic. This article disaggregates the improvement into its constituent causes. Negative binomial regressions are conducted on a pooled data set for 49 states from 1975 to 2001. The analysis concludes that about two-fifths of the decrease is due to factors such as reduced drunk driving and improved emergency medical response that have improved safety on all parts of the highway network. The installation of gates and/or flashing lights accounts for about a fifth of the reduction. The development in the 1970s and early 1980s of the Operation Lifesaver public education campaign, and the installation of additional lights on locomotives in the mid 1990s, each led to about a seventh of the reduction. Finally, about a tenth is due to closure of crossings resulting from line abandonments or consolidation of little-used crossings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-881
Number of pages15
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Accident analysis
  • Active warning devices
  • Operation Lifesaver
  • Rail-highway crossings
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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