Three Years After Being Announced, Railroad Crossing Alerts Are Not in Map Apps

In July of 2015, after about 270 people were killed in a single year at railroad crossings, we reported that tech companies were working with government agencies to address railroad crossing safety. The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it was working with tech leaders from the Google Maps team to implement railroad crossing warnings in navigation apps.

In addition to working with Google, the FRA also requested the feature to be implemented in navigation systems by Apple, TomTom, Garmin, and MapQuest. So far, none of these companies has implemented the life-saving feature.

Why Railroad Crossing Alerts Are Necessary

In February of 2015, a man in Oxnard, California turned his truck too early, ending up in the path of an oncoming Metrolink train and derailing it. The accident took the life of one person and injured dozens more. Notably, the man was using a navigation application on his phone when the accident occurred. Had railroad crossing alerts been available, they could have prevented the tragedy.

After a two-year investigation of the Oxnard train derailment, the National Transportation Safety Board sent a recommendation to technology companies suggesting they implement railroad crossing alerts. Sarah Feinberg, a former FRA administrator, expressed dismay over a lack of action on the part of tech companies in comments to Marketplace. She revealed the FRA has worked to map the location of every railroad crossing in the nation. The agency has invested considerable amounts of time to ensure that the crossing map is accurate with the hope that companies would follow through on their end. Three years later, nothing has changed.

Reason for Delay

Some experts claim the feature is not implemented yet because companies need to make sure it is usable and safe. However, a more likely explanation is that it simply isn’t a priority over other features. With hundreds of people dying each year from accidents at crossings, these railroad alerts have the potential to save dozens of lives. Our train accident attorneys are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of this once-promised feature and hope to see it save lives in the near future.

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