Technical Reports

Reducing Major Rule Violations in Commuter Rail Operations: Distraction and Its Mitigation with Sustained Attention Training

  • 30
  • Nov
  • 2016
AUTHOR: Federal Railroad Administration
OFFICE: RPD
SUBOFFICE: RPD-34
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/ORD/FRA-16/36
SUBJECT: Human Factors
KEYWORDS: CTILWEB, Attention; commuter rail; distraction; locomotive engineers; rule violations; training
ABSTRACT: : Transportation Services conducted two experiments in the Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) using animated operating scenarios that were designed to simulate elements of distraction. In Study I, operational scenarios varied in task load, from baseline to low, and then to high load. The scenarios created operator distraction in locomotive engineers by means of task-load variation, which impacted both locomotive engineer performance and mental workload. Study II examined the ability of 3 hours of Sustained Attention Training (SAT) to mitigate distraction in a group of engineers. There were no statistically significant effects of SAT on any measure. However, there were trends indicating that SAT increased locomotive operator rule compliance compared to a control group that received no training. That these effects of SAT, though not statistically significant, were found consistently in the low task load condition, suggests that errors under this condition may reflect periodic lapses in attention associated with mind wandering or mental rumination. Future studies on mitigating distraction would be warranted with a larger sample of locomotive engineers and longer duration SAT.

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