Town of Ashland says GPS may be to blame for drivers getting stuck on train tracks

ASHLAND, Va. (WRIC) — After two train vs. car collisions happened over the weekend on a busy stretch of CSX railroad, the Town of Ashland says they’ve been in talks with the railroad company for decades about how to make the area safer for drivers.

One big possibility could come down to changing the GPS directions in mobile transportation apps like WAZE and Google Maps.

“We want to figure out how we stop those folks from getting on the tracks before the trains are ever coming”, says Ashland Deputy Town Manager Joshua Farrar, addressing safety concerns after two cars were struck on the train tracks within 24 hours.

According to Farrar, the problem is more an issue of distracted driving.

“As far as trains actually hitting the cars, it’s very infrequent. People actually getting stuck or temporarily being on the tracks, that does happen a little more frequently,” he said.

A big part of the problem stems from GPS directions, telling drivers to turn too soon, like at the Ashcake and Center Street intersection.

The road there is right next to the tracks, making it easy to see how someone might end up on the tracks instead of the road, especially if it’s dark out.

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Farrar says the town and CSX have been working together for years and are exploring options for making things safer, including anything “from as simple as putting little yellow markers on the pavement to the more complex, which is contacting VDOT 511 and having them work with mobile sites like WAZE and Google Maps to try to highlight that area or change the directioning so it tells you to turn at a later moment.”

Farrar says drivers may see some of those changes in the very near future.

Others, like changes to your GPS, may take a while longer.

In the meantime, Farrar says “Take it slow. Just because your app says turn left, don’t turn left immediately, actually pay attention and hopefully that will help.”

In a statement, CSX says in part, “CSX representatives have been in ongoing discussions with town administration and VDOT to better understand issues related to visibility and navigability across the railroad tracks and to evaluate potential solutions.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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