“It's a Frightful Scenario”: A Study of Tram Collisions on a Mixed-traffic Environment in an Australian Metropolitan Setting

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Tram driving is a complex task, requiring high levels of workload, route knowledge, and divided attention. Although similar to train driving, tram driving has its own unique skills requirements as well as higher demands on divided attention and decision-making in relation to operating in an environment with multiple road users. Due to the significant differences between the two tasks, research findings relating to train driving may not necessarily be applicable to tram driving. Despite this, very little research has been conducted on the tram-driving task in general and even less so relating to accidents and near misses. Australia has experienced a high incidence of tram collisions over the past decade and with new networks being planned for several cities and expansion of existing networks there is a potential for an increase in accidents. It is therefore timely to examine the tram-driving task and consider the human factors implications of tram collisions. This study incorporated reviews of accident reports, on-site observations, focus group exercises, and individual driver discussions. Results of the analysis revealed three major themes relating to causes of accidents: situation awareness, time pressure, and organizational behaviour. Interaction between these three themes was noted. This preliminary identified cultural issues and hinted at problems associated with normalization of deviance. Further analysis and research is needed to explore and unpack the themes with a view to determining effective strategies for tram organisations to implement to improve safety and minimize the risk of collisions.




Naweed, A., & Rose, J. (2015). “It’s a Frightful Scenario”: A Study of Tram Collisions on a Mixed-traffic Environment in an Australian Metropolitan Setting. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, 2706–2713. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.666

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