Cyber-Advances in Railroad Crossing Safety

Until 2014, railroad-crossing collisions had gone down by more than 80 percent since the 1970s. But last year, an uptick in the number of accidents and fatalities led the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to partner with Google so that the locations of all grade crossings would show up in their map application. Google plans to add audio and visual alerts to the app’s turn-by-turn navigation feature as drivers become increasingly reliant on using smart phones for directions.

The FRA said that it had also contacted four other map makers—Apple, MapQuest, TomTom, and Garmin—about including similar features in their mapping software or on their devices.

The Department of Transportation has developed its own app, the Rail Crossing Location Mobile Application. However, it doesn’t let drivers know they are about to cross railroad tracks, and it’s also not used much. FRA’s acting administrator, Sarah Feinberg, noted, “What makes sense is to take that data where people are gathering. It makes much more sense for me to share my data with Google, rather than try to get Google users to come to my app. For us, it makes a ton of sense to get that information out there.”

Railroad Crossing Deaths: Nearly One Every Day

Railroad-crossing deaths are not as rare as you might think. Nationally last year (2014), 270 people died in railroad-crossing collisions, up from 232 in 2013. Indiana was fourth nationwide in highway-railroad crossing collisions in 2014, with 123 accidents, 11 deaths, and 50 injuries. According to Operation Lifesaver, an organization dedicated to reducing fatalities on railroad tracks and at crossings, a person or car is hit by a train roughly every three hours in the U.S.

These collisions are usually caused by driver error. A driver’s error, however, may be partially caused by a lack of gates and warning lights. Only 36 percent of public crossings have gates, despite the fact that gates are 80 to 90 percent more effective at preventing accidents than the commonly-used “crossbuck” (a white “X” with the words, “Railroad Crossing”). In locations where there are obstructions in the line of sight and no gates or warning lights, it is difficult for motorists to get close enough to the tracks to see in both directions without putting themselves in harm’s way.

Railroad Crossing Lawsuits

Cases exist where there is legal liability by those other than the car’s driver in railroad-crossing accidents. Negligent parties can range from the railroad that owns the train, to the company responsible for the upkeep of the tracks, to the designer or manufacturer, or, in rare cases, to the local county or town.

In Oklahoma, a jury awarded $14.8 million to the family of a man killed in his vehicle at a railroad crossing by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train. The lawsuit alleged that the crossing was dangerous, with inadequate safety equipment (no flashing lights), and that the train’s crew did not blow the horn, a requirement at all crossings.

We at McNeely Stephenson sincerely hope you will take all possible care at railroad grade crossings.

Serving accident victims in Indiana since 1981.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a railroad crossing accident, call Indiana accident lawyer Mike Stephenson. Mike can take a look at your unique situation to determine whether negligence was involved, and if so, which party was responsible. Keep in mind that in Indiana there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to make your family’s future financially secure. Call Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200 or contact us for immediate help. McNeely Stephenson. Trusted advisors. Proven advocates.