Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

Don’t let your cellphone steer you onto the LIRR tracks

The Long Island Rail Road is targeting the

The Long Island Rail Road is targeting the growing problem of drivers steering onto tracks after misunderstanding GPS directions. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Drivers across Long Island know the robotic voice well.

“In 1,000 feet, turn right.”

But just because navigation software in your dashboard or on your cellphone tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think first. That pause could prevent you from mistakenly turning onto a set of railroad tracks instead of an upcoming intersection.

According to the Long Island Rail Road, cars have driven onto tracks 21 times this year, compared with just nine in the first four months of 2017. In one example, a driver misunderstood her software’s directions, drove onto the tracks, and escaped before a train hit her car, causing massive damage and long train delays.

To prevent such mistakes, the LIRR is planning new safety measures, like reflective devices and road striping. And the railroad hopes to work with a navigation app developer to include track information. The LIRR already has developed public awareness campaigns and signage, and plans to eliminate seven grade crossings as part of the Main Line’s third-track project.

But while the LIRR’s steps are important, they don’t replace common sense. As with so much of distracted driving, from texting or talking on the phone to eating a snack or reaching for a water bottle, this is about paying attention — to other drivers, to the road, to the landscape. Navigation apps like Waze or Google Maps can save you time and aggravation. Listen to the robotic voice, but let your brain do the ultimate navigating. — The editorial board