More Warnings Lessen Overpass Truck Strikes On Westchester Roads, Highways

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An 18-wheel truck gets stuck under the Metro-North overpass on N. Main Street in Port Chester.
An 18-wheel truck gets stuck under the Metro-North overpass on N. Main Street in Port Chester. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – The number of trucks hitting bridge overpasses has decreased on both local roads and Westchester County highways in the last few years thanks to increased signage, pavement markings and other precautions.

So far in 2014 there have been 15 bridge strikes on the four parkways that Westchester County police patrol, nine of which happened on the Hutchinson River Parkway. In 2013, the total number was 28, which was a 55.5 percent reduction from the 63 in 2012, said Kieran O’leary, spokesman for Westchester County Department of Public Safety.

Westchester County police patrol the Hutch, Saw Mill River, Cross County and Bronx River parkways and bridge strikes totaled 50 in 2011; 33 in 2010; 54 in 2009 and 46 in 2008.

In 2012 pavement markings reading, “No Trucks” and “Low Bridge” were added to many parkway entrance ramps and lanes of travel on the recommendation of a multi-agency Bridge Strike Mitigation Task Force.

“We do believe that the pavement markings have helped to lower the incidence of bridge strikes in Westchester,” O’leary said. “It is too soon to say if the downward trend will continue long-term but we are encouraged by the reduction we have seen in 2013.”

The Village of Mamaroneck also put down pavement markings in recent years ahead of the Mamaroneck Avenue overpass at Halstead Avenue. At the request of Metro-North, it also stopped hanging banners there, Village Manager Richard Slingerland said.

“There’s less distraction; less likely they’re going to miss the warning signs about the height limits on the bridge,” he said.

The village is also thinking of extending its low bridge warning signs on Mamaroneck Avenue out to the N. Barry Avenue extension, “so that trucks are warned further in advance,” Slingerland said.

Similarly, Port Chester has seen fewer strikes thanks to signage further in advance of its Metro-North overpass on N. Main Street, Lt. Jeffrey Hartrey said. It did not, however, stop an 18-wheeler from getting stuck July 17. 

Drivers who hit an overpass on a county highway typically get three summonses: failure to obey a traffic control device; having a restricted vehicle on the parkway; and having an overheight vehicle on the parkway. 

While driver inattention, fatigue and language barriers play a factor, the cause is most frequently commercial truck drivers using a GPS unit intended for passenger cars, O'leary said. 

“Too many drivers are solely relying on these devices and not paying attention to the road signs,” he said. “The typical truck driver who strikes a bridge in Westchester is from out-of-state and unfamiliar with our parkways and the restrictions that exist.” 

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Most people do not read signs on the road and then there are ones that are left at construction sites like in White Plains that are wrong so the confusion begins. Also, the DMV does not send out to drivers new requirements or laws like the pull over rule for emergency vehicles. Many do not put on night lights when it rains. Trucks often go too fast to read any signs. I have seen large vehicles go into parking lots even when they hit the bar that tries to stop people from going into lots. I see this in White Plains all the time as well as cars going the wrong way. Federal Court House workers use the road by the Court House that is for Police Vehicles only and one day 2 cars turned into street on the wrong side of the road while I was trying to cross the street. I think that you can put a million signs up but mostly those who obey the laws will be the ones to follow them. These trucks should be fined and fined and not their company but the drivers. Too many tragedies are happening with buses, cars and even bicyclists not obeying the laws. I also feel bicyclists need to be licensed just like dogs are to ride anywhere on public streets cause now they are all over on sidewalks, in crosswalks and do not stop at lights.

Evidently, knowing how to read is no longer a requirement to pass a drivers' test -- especially for that test truck drivers have to take.