SCHUMER LAUNCHES MAJOR PUSH TO PREVENT BRIDGE STRIKES THAT HAVE PLAGUED WESTCHESTER COUNTY FOR DECADES; SENATOR CALLS ON LEADING GPS DEVELOPERS TO INTEGRATE DATA WARNING COMMERCIAL VEHICLE DRIVERS OF ROAD RESTRICTIONS, PROMOTE DRIVER SAFETY & DECREASE TRAFFIC
Currently, GPS Applications—Google Maps, Apple Maps & Waze—Do Not Contain Data Warning Commercial Drivers Of Roadway Restrictions Such As Maximum Vehicle Height; In The Last Decade, The King Street Bridge In Westchester County Has Been Struck ~150 Times
With No End In Sight To Major Uptick In Bridge Strikes, Schumer Urges Smartphone-Based GPS Application Developers To Implement A Warning System For Commercial Vehicle Drivers To Alert Them Of Restrictions & Hazards
Schumer To GPS Industry: One More Bridge Strike Is One Too Many
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major new effort to reduce the far-too-high number of trucks and other large commercial vehicles from striking bridges in Westchester County. Currently, smartphone-based navigation applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, while valuable resources for commercial vehicle drivers, do not make information available regarding national road restrictions like those on the maximum height for vehicles traveling under bridges. This, Schumer argued, has led to a major uptick in accidents in Westchester, with oversized vehicles striking the King Street Bridge over the Hutchinson River Parkway in Rye Brook, New York roughly 150 times in the past decade. To solve this major impediment to public safety and traffic hazard, Schumer, joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] and Ed Markey [D-MA], urged Google, Apple and Waze to provide clear and timely notification to commercial vehicle drivers about potential restrictions on their routes and include this information in their applications.
“Commercial vehicle drivers rely on smartphone-based navigation applications to do their jobs safely and efficiently, but right now those applications are leading those drivers astray and putting them squarely in harm’s way. Without vital information on road restrictions, oversized commercial vehicles are striking Westchester bridges left and right, slowing down traffic on the Hutch and other parkways and injuring far too many,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m urging the leading manufacturers of smartphone-based GPS applications to add data to their maps alerting drivers of these potential road restrictions, before one more bridge in Westchester County is hit by a commercial vehicle. Simply put, these accidents are dangerous and they are preventable—the navigation companies should work with the county and other local stakeholders to play their part in ending them.”
Schumer has been committed to addressing the increasing public safety concern of trucks striking low bridges on parkways in Westchester for over ten years. In 2009, the Westchester County executive wrote to the senator asking for assistance with the unprecedented number of bridge strikes in Westchester County. After receiving hundreds of community concerns, in 2012, the senator visited the Mamaroneck Road Bridge in Scarsdale, New York asking GPS companies to include warning systems for truck drivers on parkways. There, Schumer warned of the dangers of commercial truck drivers using navigation GPS devices meant for passenger vehicles and announced the distribution of recommendation cards by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for truck drivers passing through Westchester warning them of the dangers of their truck hitting low bridges.
However, today, Schumer explained that while traditional warnings are helpful, they simply are not enough due to the rise of smartphone-based navigation applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze. Over the last four years, there have been an alarming 209 bridge strikes in Westchester on county and state parkways. Analysis of accident reports reveals that in Westchester, an overwhelming 92.3% of drivers used a personal GPS system to navigate. Even more troubling, Westchester’s King Street Bridge, which is on the border of Rye Brook, New York and Greenwich, Connecticut has been hit more times than any other bridge in New York State. According to the County, the King Street Bridge was struck by trucks eight times in 2019 and 24 times in 2018.
The text of Schumer’s letter to Google appears below. Identical letters were sent to officials at Apple and Waze.
Dear Mr. Pichai:
In recent years, many drivers have shifted from using standalone global position system (GPS) units to smartphone-based navigation applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze. These services offer valuable directions for passenger traffic but do not currently make information about national road restrictions like those on height, weight, or hazardous materials available to users. As a result, commercial vehicle operators that rely on these applications are often directed to enter restricted roadways, which can cause accidents that adversely impact traffic patterns, inflict damage to roadways and overpasses, and even result in fatalities. We write today to urge Google to help solve these safety issues by providing clear and timely notification to commercial vehicle drivers about restrictions in their route.
As more commercial vehicle drivers use these applications, we can expect accidents and damage to roadways to increase, unless a solution is found. For example, the Hutchinson River and Merritt Parkways in Connecticut and New York provide passenger vehicle drivers with an alternative to congested interstates. The parkways prohibit travel by commercial vehicles because of low overpass clearances along the road. Unfortunately, commercial vehicles frequently travel on the parkways and strike their bridges. In fact, oversized vehicles struck the King Street Bridge on the border of Greenwich, Connecticut and Rye Brook, New York, nearly 150 times in the last decade. Even when drivers recognize their mistake and stop prior to striking a bridge, traffic delays and fatalities occur. In 2017, a man died after rear-ending a truck that stopped short of the Stanwich Road Bridge in Greenwich, Connecticut. Often, commercial vehicle accidents shut down the parkways. When this happens, commuters and travelers using the parkways face needless delays – negating the parkways’ intended purpose. Moreover, these accidents pose safety risks to all those traveling on the parkways.
Similar crashes are common in other areas of the country as well. In fact, reports indicate several accidents a year on the James Jackson Storrow Memorial Drive in Boston, Massachusetts. Passenger vehicle drivers have become accustomed to using your application and turn to it when they rent commercial vehicles. This has proved especially problematic when college students unfamiliar with the City of Boston rent moving trucks each September and are directed to Storrow Drive by their smartphone without a warning about its height restrictions. These commercial-sized vehicles are unable to clear the overpasses on the route and have repeatedly interfered with local traffic. It is critical we work to ensure that these incidents do not repeat themselves.
Too often, commercial vehicle drivers blame their smartphone navigation applications for routing them onto restricted roads. While truck-specific smartphone navigation applications already exist to help truck drivers avoid restrictions like low bridges and other commercial vehicle prohibitions, they often require subscriptions for full functionality, limiting their usage. Instead of using this costly technology, commercial vehicle drivers often rely on your free services and do not fully appreciate that they do not include important information about road restrictions.
Integrating warning features into universally available navigation applications, like Google Maps, would make them more widely accessible, preventing further accidents. Your application already allows users to make choices about what kind of information is displayed to them. One possible solution is allowing users to indicate they are driving commercial vehicles and alerting them to restrictions on roadways.
We strongly urge your company to develop and implement solutions for commercial vehicle drivers relying on your navigation platform. It will undoubtedly reduce accidents and traffic delays caused by commercial vehicles operating on restricted roads. We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.