When a commercial vehicle tries to pass under a bridge without enough clearance, it can be disastrous. These bridge strikes are probably far more common that most people realize — and they cause injuries, interrupt commerce, disrupt travel times and cause damage to the nation’s infrastructure whenever they occur.
Bridge strikes have been such a problem in New York that they’ve become a focus of education and intervention by the New York State Police, The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) from Nov. 9 through Nov. 15. In addition, there’s a proposal on the books to increase fines for overweight and overheight violations involving commercial vehicles as soon as 2021.
There are roughly 220 bridge strikes in New York every year, and the government is getting serious about stopping them. They frequently happen when commercial trucks end up on parkways or other roads where low bridges are common. In New York, commercial trucks are not supposed to be on the parkways, but truckers sometimes get misled when they’re using a consumer-grade global positioning device (GPS) instead of commercial-grade ones.
Currently, the authorities are passing out tip cards and other educational materials that are designed to educate commercial drivers about their responsibilities and restrictions. They’ll also be aggressively ticketing drivers who violate the law. Keep in mind that overheight violations currently net a driver up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $200 to $500. If the 2021 proposal is accepted, the fine will increase to $5,000.
Local commercial drivers may be highly conscious of the problems and restrictions, but drivers who are passing through the state may easily make a mistake that could cost them. If you’re charged with an overheight violation (with or without an actual bridge strike), make sure that you look in to all available avenues of defense.