SCARSDALE, N.Y. – U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke Monday at the Mamaroneck Road Bridge in Scarsdale, calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to regulate GPS devices for truck drivers to ensure tractor-trailers don’t strike bridges on parkways.
There have been 855 such crashes in the state the past two decades, including 668 in Westchester County. Those strikes have increased in recent years, and Schumer said the problem has been the devices, which lead drivers onto parkways with low bridges without warning.
In a study, the senator found misused GPS devices caused 80 percent of bridge strikes.
“The devices are great to get grandma and grandpa to your house, and they’re great for motorists, but it’s directing too many trucks to our parkways,” he said. “I’m calling on the DOT to issue standards for GPS devices. I like the commercial trucking industry. I want to keep everyone safe.”
Schumer called on the department to conduct an investigation into the increased bridge accidents. He also proposed that companies that design the GPS devices ought to include warning systems for truck drivers to prevent them from ever getting on parkways illegally.
“Drivers often say they didn't know not to get on the roads, and then often say that the GPS led them there. These devices are set the same for a five-foot-high Taurus or a fifteen-foot tractor-trailer,” he said. “I’m putting the onus on the trucking companies and the DOT to make sure that the trucking industry does this.”
In a letter to Ray LaHood, the U.S. secretary of transportation, Schumer formally requested the department take the necessary steps to avoid future bridge strikes.
“Despite the great efforts of the New York State DOT to increase signage and develop new alert systems for drivers over the past number of years, reports from local police organizations continue to fault the reliance on basic GPS as the main culprit in many of these low-bridge commercial truck accidents,” he wrote.
The state has spent more than $3 million on new bridge signs around the state. Despite this effort, bridge strikes are at an all-time high, with more than 60 happening in the county this year already.
“This is a longstanding hazard that threatens the safety of Westchester County and is hurting taxpayers,” Schumer said. “The Hutchinson River Parkway is one of the prettiest in America, but it was built for beautiful driving and wasn't designed for trucks.”