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In-vehicle Signing at Highway Railroad Grade Crossings
Minnesota Guidestar
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In-vehicle Signing at Highway Railroad Grade Crossings

Project Description

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, 3M, and Dynamic Vehicle Safety Systems developed an in-vehicle signing system to alert drivers of potentially dangerous railroad crossing situations. In this project, the in-vehicle signing system was installed in 29 school buses in Glencoe, Minnesota. The system was operational for the 1997/1998 school year. The system was initially installed at signalized railroad crossings but the test was later expanded to evaluate the technology for use at unsignalized or passive crossings.


The conflict of vehicles and trains at at-grade crossings can cause serious accidents. There are a significant number of railroad-highway accidents in Minnesota each year and the fatality rate for motorists involved in accidents with trains is 30 times higher than the rate for an accident with another motor vehicle. The in-vehicle signing system is a supplemental warning system to alert drivers to these potentially dangerous situations.


The in-vehicle signing system is designed to provide timely information to drivers approaching railroad crossings. The system is activated when a receiver on the school bus traveling toward the crossing comes within range of a radio signal emitted at the crossing. The system operates by providing the school bus driver with two types of information on rail crossings: the bus’s proximity to an at-grade railroad crossing (crossing alert) and whether or not a train is present at or near the crossing (train warning). Both visual and variable audio signals are given. The system also has the ability to discern the direction the bus is traveling relative to the crossing, thereby preventing nuisance warnings when the vehicle is within the vicinity of the crossings but not intending to cross the tracks.