Federal agency launches app to aid rail-crossing safety

Less than a month after a fiery train derailment in Rosedale, the Federal Railroad Administration Tuesday launched a smartphone mobile application to provide safety information about more than 200,000 highway-rail grade crossings.

The free app, Rail Crossing Locator, is available through Apple and can be used on iPhones and iPads. It allows users to find information about rail crossings, including physical characteristics and the type of traffic control devices used. It also allows users to report information about grade crossings to the FRA.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Rail Crossing Locator will allow users "to improve neighborhood safety and make better personal travel choices."

There were 52 accidents — four of them fatal — at public and private railroad crossings in Maryland between 2010 and 2012, making the state one of the safest, according to federal statistics.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate last month's derailment and explosion in Rosedale involving a trash truck that collided with a CSX freight train. The crash seriously injured two people, one of them the truck driver, and triggered a fire and an explosion that rocked the region.

Drivers are required by law to stop at unguarded rail crossings. The Rosedale crossing had no gates or flashing lights. The crossing was marked with x-shaped crossbuck signs and faded, nonstandard yellow stop signs, the NTSB said.

Over the past decade, highway-rail incidents have fallen 34 percent, and deaths resulting from these events have fallen 30 percent. Last year, highway-rail crossing collisions accounted for nearly 20 percent of all reportable rail accidents and incidents and represented nearly one-third of all rail-related fatalities.

Of the 631 public grade crossings statewide, only 20 percent are gated, according to FRA records. Most of the ungated crossings use flashing lights or bells to signal an oncoming train, though about 80 crossings have only a sign to warn drivers, like an x-shaped crossbuck or stop sign.


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