MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – A tractor-trailer collided with the East 3rd Street Bridge overpass Monday around 5:30 a.m. on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Mount Vernon -- the 62nd time a truck hit a Westchester parkway overpass this year.
Kieran O’Leary, spokesperson for the Westchester County Police, said the driver was from California taking his first trip to New York. The driver was using a GPS program on his phone, not a commercial unit that would have warned him, O'Leary said. The driver was issued four summonses.
“Ironically, he was traveling north on I-95 in the Bronx – where trucks are permitted – and followed the GPS onto the parkway and continued into Westchester,” he said. “If he had been using the proper commercial grade GPS, he would have remained on I-95 and not caused a problem for himself and the motoring public.”
The state Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains the Hutchinson River, Saw Mill and Cross County Parkways, recently began adding the pavement markings at multiple locations and near entrance ramps that read “No Trucks Low Bridge.” These markings are in addition to the signs that warn truck drivers that these parkways are for “Passenger Cars Only” and not for trucks.
Despite the extra warnings, bridge strikes on Westchester parkways are up from 50 a year ago, and 33 in 2010.
“The goal is to add another layer of warnings for truck drivers that trucks are not permitted on these parkways. They are intended to let trucks know they need to get off that particular parkway,” O’Leary said. “In all bridge strikes, the driver has driven past a number of signs, usually because they are not paying attention and are relying solely on the GPS.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) has proposed litigation that calls on the U.S. Department of Transportation to regulate GPS devices for truck drivers to start mitigating the problem. In a study, he found that misused GPS devices were the cause of 80 percent of 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,” he wrote in a letter to Ray LaHood, U.S. secretary of transportation. “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.”