Human Factors in Transport Systems

Researcher profile

Professor Michael Lenné
Associate Director, Human Factors in Transport Systems

"We need to create safe systems that are designed and operated in a way that support road users doing the right thing."

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Modern safety science is about applying in-depth understanding of people - their abilities, characteristics and limitations - to the design of the equipment they use and the environments in which they function.

Our Human Factors team is able to apply models of system safety to the analysis of safety in multiple settings including transportation, workplace, defence, command and control, process control and product design. Across all areas of safety, we provide solutions and policy guidance for our partners and clients.

In transport safety, this means developing safe system approaches to accident investigation, investigating driver decision-making and situation awareness, evaluating in-vehicle technologies, researching the influence of road signage and infrastructure design, and addressing driver/rider training and licensing systems.

Within workplaces it means developing methods to model operator performance in complex systems, and investigating organisational influences on worker safety.

This requires a comprehensive approach to accident prevention. Our team have backgrounds in experimental psychology, ergonomics, computer science, epidemiology, biomedical engineering, sports science, military/defence, and road safety policy.

Over more than 20 years of respected research, we have developed strong relationships with more than 25 collaborators and partners across Australia, Sweden, the UK, France and the Netherlands. These include state and federal governments, roads, transport and safety authorities, defence and aviation organisations, and research institutions.

Responding to community concern

On 5 June 2007, a V/Line passenger train and a semi-trailer truck collided at a level crossing near the Victorian town of Kerang, killing 11 people and injuring another 23.

While this and other tragedies affect people across Australia, the dangers associated with road and rail crossings remain. In 2008, Australia saw 58 collisions between trains and vehicles at rail level crossings.

In 2011, in direct response to political and community calls for answers, human factors experts from MUARC began a four-year, $2 million ARC Linkage funded investigation into rail crossings.

Using world-class equipment and research methods, including on-road and simulator testing, the researchers are uncovering invaluable insights into how drivers behave at level crossings - what they think as they make their approach, where they are looking and what grabs their attention.

The project has the financial and in-kind support of six key Victorian rail stakeholders, and the safety recommendations gathered will be fed directly back to the people that regulate the rail system, that operate the train fleet and develop and maintain the rail infrastructure.

The project aims to develop safety systems that will support the road user to make safer decisions at level crossings.