In an effort to prevent railroad crossing accidents, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has teamed up with Google to warn drivers when they’re approaching a crossing.
Every railroad crossing in the country will be visible in Google Maps, and the app will issue both audio and visual notifications when the car approaches a crossing, according to a report by The New York Times and confirmed by Mashable. Right now, there’s no timetable as to when the feature will appear in the app.
The hope is that drivers will be more careful as they intersect railroad crossings. About 94% of accidents at crossings is due to driver inattention and error, the FRA said. A major cause of accidents is drivers trying to beat the train to the crossing and miscalculating how much time they have.
The agency is also working with Apple and other mobile map makers to ensure the safety feature is widely adopted, the FRA told Mashable. But those agreements haven’t been finalized, and Apple has not replied to a request for comment.
The FRA is trying to capitalize on common driving behavior — getting directions through a smartphone — to increase safety. Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FRA, has also developed its own app with all railroad crossing listings. But that app wouldn’t reach nearly as many people as having the data integrated into Google Maps and other applications would.
The number of accidents at railroad crossings was under 2,000 a year as recently as 2012 — a tremendous drop compared with the roughly 12,000 accidents a year recorded in the 1970s. But that number has been slightly up for the last three years. In 2014, there were nearly 2,300 accidents, according to FRA data.
Efforts to make railroad crossing safer come after a deadly run of accidents over the last year, though not all of them involved collisions. In February, a Metro North train in the New York City area hit an SUV and killed six people. The organization said 270 people died of railroad crossing collisions in 2014, up from 234 the previous year.