Railroad crossing accidents across the United States were up sharply over the last year, but the Federal Railway Administration may soon be receiving some high-tech help.

Google Maps is now planning to include a significant number of public and private highway railroad crossing locations across the nation on a new app. The Google Maps app will provide drivers both audio and visual alerts when approaching railway crossings. In 2014, 270 people were killed in railroad crossing accidents -48 more than in 2013.

Driver Inattention to Blame for Railway Crossing Accidents?

One theory for the increase in railroad crossing accidents is the corresponding increase in driver inattention. This inattention may be due to the use of cell phones, whether texting, talking, or from the use of voice commands. When drivers are on a route which is unfamiliar, or when they are driving in the dark, the potential for a serious railroad crossing accident is more likely, even when the driver is paying attention.

In cases like this, the Google app could direct the driver’s attention to the upcoming crossing–that is, if the driver was actually using their device for navigational purposes. The FRA has also asked Apple, TomTom, Garmin, and MapQuest to provide similar features in order to alert drivers to railroad crossings, and reduce accidents and fatalities. Because Google has limited information on private railroad crossings, not every crossing will be shown, and there is no definitive timeline as to when the information will appear.

How Safe Are Trains?

Of course, the deadly Pennsylvania Amtrak train crash in May of this year has led many to wonder just how safe riding on a train really is. The Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight and sending more than 200 to the hospital, yet many unanswered questions remain. The investigation shows the train may have accelerated as it approached a sharp curve, begging the questions as to whether a mechanical failure was at fault, the engineer was to blame, or whether a flaw in the track itself caused the crash. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation had more than 31 million passengers between October 2012 and September 2013. The Northeast Corridor, where the accident occurred, is the busiest stretch of the NRPC, by far.

Train Collisions Up?

Amtrak is not the only railway which has suffered crashes. The Federal Railway Administration noted that, while Amtrak has had nine derailments so far this year, there were 35 derailments nationwide on main railways in one single month–January 2014. Transportation analyst, Matthew L Wald, acknowledged that there are rails, which should be replaced, however, overall, the Amtrak railway is in “good condition.” Some railways have added automated speed control technology, known as positive train control, which can override human errors and slow the train down. The Pennsylvania Amtrak trains, however, were not among them. Despite the fact that Congress ordered that this technology be implemented by 2015, it is unlikely that this deadline will be met.

Train Fatalities Up?

According to the Long Island Railroad, total fatalities increased 225 percent between 2004 and 2013. These fatalities were not, however, train accident deaths, but consisted of 29 railway crossing deaths. An FRA spokesman told Newsweek that railroad crossing incidents account for about 32 percent of all railway-related fatalities. He urged drivers to remain vigilant and refrain from distractions to avoid becoming such a statistic. The National Transportation Safety Board’s most recent figures on railway fatalities are from 2013 and show railway deaths as a whole were up 6 percent in 2013. One caveat: the majority of those fatalities were trespassers struck by trains.

While railway tragedies can and do happen, it is important to remember that, in 2013, 94 percent of all transportation deaths were roadway deaths from automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles. If you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death due to a train accident, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable Pennsylvania personal injury attorney who can look at the facts of your case and help determine your options.

Contact Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers

The personal injury attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have decades of experience representing injured accident victims and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton counties. We are also proud to serve injured accident victims throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.