Google Maps to provide railroad crossing data as accident rates increase

In an attempt to use technology to help reduce the number of vehicle-rail accidents, the Federal Railroad Administration is encouraging map makers to add railroad track crossing data.

(Note the four crossings in this small area)

I live in a city with freight, Amtrak, and commuter trains running on tracks 24 hours a day. There are seven crossings in town and if you look now on Google Maps it just shows train tracks over the top of roads with nothing calling out the crossings.

The New York Times reports that the Federal Railroad Administration will be announcing a partnership with Google to provide all grade crossings, including audio and visual alerts, in the near future.

There are a reported 130,000 public and 85,000 private crossings in the US. In 2014, the number of accidents at these crossings rose by 9 percent with 270 deaths due to collisions between cars and trains.

The increased accident rate may be due to driver distractions, but since many people are also now using their phones for navigation it makes sense to specifically call out these crossings in navigation applications.

Some crossings in our area, particularly private crossings, do not have gates or blinking lights. There are signs and painted streets, but distracted drivers may be missing these.

The Federal Railroad Administration contacted Apple, MapQuest, Garmin, and TomTom to request that these companies also include crossing information.