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Downside of GPS Navigation Systems: Trucks Hitting Bridges

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Truck Crunch 3 by Flickr user Kim Scarborough

Truck Crunch 3 by Flickr user Kim Scarborough

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Navigation systems using GPS seem to be behind a whole host of bad behavior. They lead BMW drivers to the brink of cliffs, and now they're causing truck drivers in New York State to drive into bridges.

The engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum reports that GPS devices are directing truckers, especially out-of-state drivers unfamiliar with the region, onto limited-access parkways that ban commercial traffic and have bridges too low for modern tractor-trailer rigs.

The New York State Department of Transportation cites more than 1,400 truck-into-bridge accidents over the past 15 years, with the vast majority of them on the Hutchinson River Parkway in crowded Westchester County, just north of New York City. More damning, the NYSDoT says 81 percent of those were due to drivers following GPS directions.

New York State Governor David Patterson recently issued a press release promising renewed enforcement of laws against commercial vehicles on parkways, and the state is also trying to work with 20 GPS and mapping providers to include bridge clearance heights in their data sets.

The coments on the article are worth a read too. Don McCallum suggests anyone using a GPS device while driving should be ticketed; he wants all drivers to plan their routes in advance and commit them to memory.

Two rather more practical suggestions are warning frames at the entrances to on-ramps, with chains to indicate overpass height (from Eusebio Rufian-Zilbermann) and a "commercial truck" overlay option added to consumer GPS devices (from Steve Ouellette).

Meanwhile, we leave you with a special bonus video on the topic of trucks driving into bridges.

[IEEE Spectrum; photo by Flickr user Kim Scarborough]

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Comments (12)
  1. I thought they already had "trucker" maps for GPSes but you had to pay extra for them.

  2. Don't blame the truck, blame the driver who can't read clearance signs.

  3. Wasn't that a rental truck? The GPS is just supposed to provide directions, not read the clearance signs for people.

  4. So, anyone hiring truck drivers? Looks like I know of at least one that needs a job.

  5. Seems to me the government should take over the GPS makers. This is an outrage.

  6. funny shit... gentlemen- learn to think...

  7. Epic fail. But to be honest, sometimes when I use my GPS I become oblivious to what's going on around me.

  8. Couldn't this much infrastructure damage be avoided on low bridges with a simple, cheap alert flasher system? Unless of course the highway dept gets a secret kick out of seeing the tops of trailers getting ripped off...

  9. May be it' time to make that bridge a bit higher?

  10. I also heard of trucks driving into too-narrow streets and getting stuck. Seems like for some people GPS and good old common-sense don't work together...

  11. Yes, they do have intelligent GPS units where you can load the height, length and width of your vehicle into the system. They will even show warnings about roads that are close to trucks. These are also very handy for RV drivers.

  12. HI ,
    We are a taxi company Hummingbird Cars in London. We provide Airport Transfer service from all london airports.
    We have recently started our new business and we require to buy Car navigation system or Tom Toms for our taxis . Can anyone suggest which type of navigation system and company is the best and where we can get the best deals.
    Thank you

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