OAKLAND (CBS/AP) — A new earthquake early-warning system installed by Bay Area Rapid Transit will detect earthquakes precious seconds before the ground starts shaking, allowing trains to be slowed down in an effort to prevent derailments.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the system was designed with the help of University of California, Berkeley scientists, and is similar to a system already being used in Japan.

READ MORE: Stockton Man Gets 17 Year Prison Sentence For Child Sex Trafficking

State and federal quake scientists have already installed a series of 200 sensors from central California to the Oregon border, and BART’s new early warning system taps into this array.

READ MORE: Petaluma Police Nab Man With 5 Arrest Warrants On Gun, Drug Charges

If a 5.0-magnitude-or-stronger quake hits far away, or a 4.0 closer to home, the system sends an alarm to BART’s computers, which slow trains by about 2 miles per hour per second.

MORE NEWS: EDD Fraud: Fresno Man, Central Valley Inmate Plead Guilty To $103K Unemployment Benefit Scheme

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)