Google Maps will begin warning drivers when they approach railroad crossings using data from the Federal Railroad Administration.
The partnership, announced Monday by Sarah Feinberg, the agency’s acting administrator, is aimed at reducing railroad crossing fatalities.
Last year, 270 people died in railroad crossing crashes, marking the first increase in two decades.
This year, railroad crossing safety has been in the spotlight after three major collisions involving passenger trains, two of them fatal.
Feinberg, who previously worked for Facebook, also reached out to Apple and MapQuest, as well as Garmin and TomTom, makers of GPS navigation devices.
In a letter to Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of products at Google, Feinberg wrote that the absence of railroad crossing notifications on navigation apps and devices was “a lost opportunity” to communicate with drivers and that the lack of data could put them in danger.
“When drivers are alerted or reminded that there is a rail crossing ahead, they may be more likely to remain alert, take greater caution and obey the signal crossings,” she wrote. “Drivers will also be more likely to pay closer attention to their whereabouts, and to take note of crossing safety equipment.”
Two recent accidents where commuter trains struck vehicles on the tracks resulted in seven fatalities.
A Feb. 3 collision in Valhalla, N.Y., killed the driver of an SUV and five passengers on a Metro-North train. The passengers died in a fire that resulted when the electrified third rail pierced through the lead car. On Feb. 24, a Metrolink commuter train struck a pickup in Oxnard, Calif., and derailed. The train’s engineer later died of his injuries.
On March 9, an Amtrak train struck an oversize truck at a crossing in Halifax, N.C. Though the train derailed, no one was killed.