GPS-confused driver ends up on LIRR tracks

Surveillance video from Precise Detailing in Mineola, Long Island, shows a car turn directly onto the Long Island Rail Road tracks at the Willis Avenue crossing. The driver, who managed to get out the car before it was struck by an oncoming train, got confused by GPS directions.

Precise Detailing owner Anthony Petito said he has seen a handful of these accidents. He said drivers need to be careful when they use GPS devices.

The LIRR has seen 21 of these incidents so far this year compared to nine in the first four months of last year. Safety upgrades including reflective devices to clearly identify the 296 grade crossings are already in the works.

LIRR President Phillip Eng said the MTA is working with GPS mapping companies, including Wave and Google, to indicate the presence of railroad tracks.

MTA Board Member Mitchell Pally said that GPS devices are causing innumerable problems not only for the drivers but for the LIRR that has to deal with the aftermath. The railroad has to not only clear cars from tracks, it also has to inspect signals for damage and problems.

The LIRR plans on finishing enhancements at 65 high-priority locations by Memorial Day. The work on the remaining crossings is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.