Google-owned navigation app Waze is rolling out a global safety feature that alerts users about upcoming railroad crossings.
The feature is not wholly new, and was quietly launched in the US, Belgium, and Canada earlier this year, but Waze says it’s now expanding the alerts to more territories. In some countries it’s working with official data from railroad operators, while in others (like the UK, Italy, Israel, Brazil, Mexico) it’s relying on its community of local map editors to add alerts.
“Railroad Crossing alerts started rolling out on Waze earlier this year, however now that more people are returning to the roads following the COVID-19 outbreak we are highlighting this functionality to help promote road safety,” a spokesperson for Waze told The Verge.
The alerts appear as a pop-up in the Waze app but can be turned off by users. To turn the alerts off, users can head to Search > Settings > Map Display > Reports > Railroad crossing and deselect “Alert me while driving.” It’s not clear exactly how many crossings are included in Waze’s database or how coverage may differ between countries.
Many rail organizations, like the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), have been pushing for GPS apps to integrate railroad alerts for years. Safety agencies say drivers still get confused about where and when to stop near railroad crossings, especially if suffering from fatigue, and that alerts from navigation apps like Waze can help remind them of these dangers. The most recent data from the FRA covering 2018 reported that there were 2,217 collisions at railroad crossings in the US with 262 of these resulting in fatalities.
Dani Simons, Waze’s head of public sector partnerships, said the feature was the result of a “cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration, both internally within Waze and the community, working together to help fellow drivers map out all highway-railroad intersections.”