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Sen. Schumer calling for national GPS standards to help prevent bridge accidents

Thanks to certain technological advancements, global positioning systems are now standard equipment in many cars, trucks and buses. In fact, these GPS devices have now evolved to such a degree that they can instantaneously find the fastest route to a particular location, identify where traffic has slowed to a crawl and inform the user of existing vehicle traffic laws.

Interestingly enough, Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) recently indicated that there is one area where these devices are perhaps woefully deficient -- alerting truck drivers to the potential danger of hitting low bridge decks.

In a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Schumer indicated that the federal government should consider drafting standards for GPS devices in order to prevent both truck drivers and bus drivers from inadvertently driving onto parkways that are otherwise closed to commercial traffic due to low overpasses.

While you may be quick to dismiss the need to draft such GPS standards, consider some of the eye-opening statistics offered by Schumer's letter on trucks/buses involved in bridge strikes:

  • Roughly 80 percent of bridge strikes in the state of New York can be attributed to GPS misdirection (i.e., the devices not noting clearances/height restrictions)
  • Between 2010 and 2011, 110 bridges were struck in New York City and 94 were struck on Long Island
  • Bridge strike accidents on the Long Island Expressway alone have necessitated roughly $4.1 million in repairs

"These accidents are frequent, costly, dangerous and entirely avoidable," wrote Schumer. "If we have the technology to send a truck to Mars, we have the technology to prevent trucks from crashing into bridges."

In general, trucking groups such as the American Trucking Associations have come out in support of the 50 states and GPS manufacturers working together to provide devices with the most current mapping information available. However, they have stopped short of calling for national GPS standards.

This may have something to do with the fact that navigation devices made specifically for truckers often do include such information as bridge clearances, and that those truckers involved in bridge strike accidents are often relying on consumer GPS units or even on cell phone apps that don't provide the same detailed information.

It should be interesting to see if this issue gains any momentum on Capitol Hill. Stay tuned for more from our New York traffic law blog ...

A ticket for violating a vehicle traffic law can result in serious consequences, including fines, points against your license, increased insurance rates, license suspension/revocation or even jail time. Accordingly, if you or a loved one has received a citation, don't just dismiss it.

Instead, consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Bloomberg News, "Truckers guided by GPS said to hit NY bridges 200 times," Jeff Plungis, Sept. 24, 2012

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