The only way to absolutely prevent all drivers from going around lowered gates at level rail-highway crossings is to make it physically impossible, or at least very difficult, for them to do so. While there are various options to accomplish this (constructing a separation of grade, closing the crossing, or deploying an impenetrable concrete barrier), most have high monetary or social costs. Alternative approaches—such as channelization devices and long-arm gates—while not 100 percent effective, can be used to prevent deaths and injuries while remaining economically feasible. Research has shown that the addition of channelization devices can dramatically reduce the number of violations at level rail-highway crossings. While long-arm gates appear to be effective, additional study is needed to determine their suitability for individual locations. Unfortunately, even when overall rail crash totals for the country or for a given state are high, crashes at specific crossings are relatively rare events, making it extremely difficult to show that the addition of a safety treatment at a particular site prevented a crash. However, based on the efficacy of channelization devices—75 percent—in addition to the experiences of various transportation agencies, these devices appear to be a viable, low cost safety upgrade for at-grade crossings.
November 15, 2012