ITE Journal - March 2021 - 44

A systematic review identified five major contributing causes
of incorrect turns onto railroad tracks: 1) potentially misleading
signs and pavement markings near highway-rail crossings, 2)
darkness and low visibility near or at highway-rail crossings, 3)
following inaccurate turn instructions from a GPS device onto
railroad tracks, 4) skewed highway-rail grade crossings, and 5)
driver distraction.1 Misleading signs and pavement markings, as
shown in Figure 1b, are widely applied on exclusive turning lanes
in the upstream of highway-rail grade crossings. Drivers who
intend to make a turn at the downstream turning point (intersection leg, on-ramp, or driveway) on an exclusive turning lane
may be confused by the design of continuous right-turn arrows
plus " ONLY " in advance of the crossings, and " MUST TURN "
signs exacerbate the issue. Drivers are likely to make the turn at
the first curb edge opening (rail tracks) and then hesitate near the
rail tracks. This issue is more serious for unfamiliar or distracted
drivers in a low-visibility environment.2
To help road users more clearly understand where a turn is to
be made, even under adverse conditions, the National Committee
on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) (2009) Technical
Committee recommended the following (It is worth noting this
recommendation has not yet been included in the Manual on
Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2009 Edition):
Proposed Section 8B.23 Arrow Markings
Standard - Arrow pavement markings for turn lanes shall
not be placed between the stop line for the highway-rail grade
crossing and the tracks.
Guidance - Arrow pavement markings, if used, should be
placed a minimum of 100 ft. in advance of the stop line for the
highway-rail grade crossing when sufficient turn lane storage
length exists. Arrow pavement markings, if used, should be
placed no less than 20 ft. beyond the far rail.**
*	 The proposed changes approved by the NCUTCD are submitted to the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) for consideration for a future revision to the MUTCD. Approval by the NCUTCD does not constitute official
rulemaking or acceptance of these changes by the FHWA. The FHWA evaluates each proposal and determines
whether to include in a future rulemaking to amend the MUTCD, along with recommended changes submitted by
other organizations, agencies, and individuals, as well as any changes that the FHWA develops directly.

Based on this proposed recommendation, this study developed
cost-effective countermeasures, as shown in Figure 2, to prevent
incorrect turns onto tracks caused by driver misinterpretation of
the curb edge opening at railroad crossings at a location at which
they were to turn. First, continuous right-turn arrow markings on
exclusive turn lanes are removed from the zone in advance of rail
tracks; the clearance range is beyond 100 feet (ft.) (30.5 meters [m])
for forming a consistent pavement-marking pattern promoting
path continuation. Second, several combinations of route/interstate
shield, cardinal direction, and straight arrow are repainted on the
upstream of the grade crossing on exclusive lanes. This design of
straight arrow, plus guidance information in the upstream of the rail
tracks, could guide drivers to keep a straight path until passing the
grade crossing and, consequently, avoid incorrect turns onto tracks.
Similar countermeasures of pavement markings have
been successfully implemented to prevent wrong-way driving
behaviors.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 However, the effectiveness of these countermeasures in preventing incorrect turns at highway-rail grade crossings
has not been investigated. The research objective of this study was
to conduct pilot studies in Florida, USA and evaluate the effectiveness of proposed low-cost countermeasures in preventing incorrect
turns at highway rail crossings.

Hesitation Behavior
It is difficult to observe actual incorrect turning behaviors during
a short period of time because 1) incorrect turns onto tracks are
rare and random events, 2) few incidents of turning onto railroad
tracks are reported if no stuck vehicles or collisions occurred, and
3) surveillance devices (i.e., CCTVs) that monitor incorrect turn
events are available at only a few grade crossings.
Drivers who are confused about a turning point near a railroad
crossing tend to present hesitation behavior that causes a significant
lowering of speed to allow searching for target turning points and
making decisions-the more hesitation behavior occurs, the higher
the incorrect turn risk. Since hesitation behaviors are related to slower
speed, this study measured the speed of approaching vehicles on

Figure 1. Illustration of incorrect turning maneuvers at highway-rail grade crossings.

a. Scenario of incorrect turns at highway-rail grade crossings.
44

Ma rch 2021

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b. Misleading pavement markings and signage.



ITE Journal - March 2021

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