If I asked you to make a list of all of the dangers you have to watch out for when you get behind the wheel, railroad crossings probably wouldn't be at the top of the list. But, maybe they should be. Just last year, 270 people were killed in collisions at rail crossings. That's why Google and the Federal Railroad Administration are teaming up to make drivers more aware of crossings during their commutes.
Google is now going to integrate every single rail crossing in the country into its popular Google Maps service. That includes 130,000 public and 85,000 private rail crossings. Google is also adding alerts to Google Maps apps so that drivers are forewarned as they approach railroads.
Grade-crossing accidents are generally caused by driver inattention and error, according to the rail regulator. In many instances, there are no gates or blinking lights to warn drivers of an oncoming train — just a crossing sign or a crossbuck (a white “X” marked with the words “railroad crossing”).
But, Google may not be the only service integrating these features. The Federal Railroad Administration has also contacted Apple, MapQuest, TomTom and Garmin, according to The New York Times.
Rail crossing collisions had been on a steady decline until last year. Collisions had dropped from about 12,000 per year in the 1970s to roughly 2,000 per year, according to The New York Times. But, 2014 saw collisions rise by 9% year over year.
The Federal Railroad Administration thinks that it can lower the risk of these collisions by making drivers more aware of their surroundings.
“The vast majority of these accidents and deaths are preventable,” said Sarah Feinberg, the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting administrator. “In some cases, maybe a driver intends to beat the train, thinks they are familiar with the route or still have time to cross. But there are many cases where drivers lack situational awareness, because it may be dark or the route is unfamiliar.”
You won't see any railway crossings labeled the next time you fire up Google Maps as Google has yet to integrate the United States Department of Transportation's database into its tool. There is no timetable for when crossing information will be available.