Google Maps will soon highlight US railroad crossings during navigation

While it's hard to image there could be any remaining road data left that could be added to Google Maps for improvement, it turns out there is, and it could making using the service for navigation purposes a bit safer for drivers. In order to reduce the recent spike in the number of accidents at US railroad crossings, the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) has asked Google Maps to include the location of every public and private highway rail crossing.

Google has agreed, and soon their Maps service will include the locations in the form of audio and/or visual alerts to drivers as they approach crossings. The reason for the FRA's request is because 2014 saw 270 deaths related to railroad crossing accidents, which is an increase of 48 over the previous year. Oddly enough, they believe part of the cause may have been due to smartphone use and drivers' inattention.

Speaking to the New York Times, the FRA says the greatest danger is when drivers don't have situational awareness, such as when driving on an unfamiliar route or when it's dark out. While this may sound silly when considering the warning sounds and flashing lights at most crossings, it still applies to that are uncontrolled (i.e. don't have those barriers that swing down).

The hope is that if drivers are using Google Maps for navigation like turn-by-turn directions, the app's alerts will bring their attention back to the road ahead. The FRA even has their own Rail Crossing Locator app for iOS and Android, but they've also reached out to Apple, TomTom, MapQuest, and Garmin to add the same data and feature to their mapping services.

SOURCE New York Times