Go to Jail For Using Inaccurate GPS Directions in New York State?

Governor David A. Paterson announced last week legislation to improve safety on New York State roads by stricter enforcement of driving laws which he says will dramatically reduce the number of bridges being hit by trucks across the state. The governor claims that commercial truck drivers increasingly rely on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that direct them to take New York State roads that either are off limits to trucks by law or have low clearances, and he wants it to stop.

In his press release, Governor Paterson said that, "Bridge strikes are a critical public safety issue, as they endanger lives, eat up taxpayer dollars and add unnecessary stress to our daily commutes."

According to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), more than 1,400 bridges have been struck in the last 15 years, with four out of the five worst locations along the Hutchinson River Parkway in Westchester County. NYSDOT also says that 81 percent of overpass strikes by commercial vehicles are caused by GPS (mis)guidance.

The proposed legislation which will likely be introduced in January 2010 would:

  • Increase the penalties for truck drivers who illegally use parkways;         
  • Allow for the confiscation of trucks stopped and ticketed at the discretion of officers on the scene;         
  • Require all large commercial trucks to use enhanced GPS devices that route them away from restricted roads; and
  • Allow the State and affected localities to recoup many of the costs associated with the bridge strike from the trucking company or their insurance carrier.        

Last month, over the course of one week of an enforcement blitz by Westchester County and New York State Police, some 400 tickets were issued to commercial truck drivers who were illegally operating their vehicles on certain roads and parkways. Most of the tickets were issued to out-of-state drivers using non-commercial GPS devices.

New York State, the press release says, has contacted 20 different GPS and mapping providers on upgrading their software to account for low clearance bridges and overpasses.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association calls this a "heavy handed" approach that will do "a great job of pushing New York to the top of the list of places where truckers least want to do business."

If the legislation passes, it may spur similar efforts in other states.

I wonder how long it will be before all drivers might be at risk of a fine or even jail time for depending too much on the accuracy of their GPS systems?

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