The accident on the Hutchinson parkway in Rye Brook Thursday, where the roof of a tractor-trailer was ripped off after striking a bridge, was unfortunate but all too common, police said. The accident was "not necessarily unusual," said Kieran O'Leary, the public information officer for Westchester County police. There have already been 20 bridge strikes on parkways patrolled by the Westchester County police this year, according to police. One of those strikes came just hours after the Thursday accident. A box truck hit the King Street Bridge, the same bridge struck by the tractor-trailer.Many of the incidents involve out of state truck drivers who aren't familiar with the New York parkway system, said O'Leary. "The word parkway doesn't mean the same thing in different parts of the country," said O'Leary. "They are what we would call highways."
He said truckers who aren't paying attention to signs end up on roads meant for passenger cars only. While bridge strikes are a problem all over New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, Westchester County seems to be a particularly problematic area, said O'Leary. The two most hit bridges in New York state-- King Street Bridge and Mamaroneck Road Bridge-- are in Westchester on the Hutchinson parkway.Over the past couple of years authorities have started paying more attention to the issue. A bridge strike task force with officials from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut spearheads the initiative to educate truck drivers. Authorities have installed and repaired signs and partnered with trucking industry organizations to create a brochure that warns drivers of the differing road systems. A new experimental measure is the use of electronic devices placed along the road to measure a vehicle's clearance and flash warning signs to the driver. While technology should be making roads safer, O'Leary said that one modern invention-- the GPS-- actually contributes to accidents like these. He said sometimes truckers rely on a standard consumer GPS instead of the special industry model that can tell what roads a large vehicle should take. "It doesn't know he's driving an 18 wheel tractor trailer as opposed to a Honda Civic," O'Leary said. Though safety measures seem to be working-- incidents on roads controlled by the Westchester County police have decreased from 54 in 2008 to 34 in 2010, according to police-- numbers are still high. "We're hoping the trend is going in the right direction," said O'Leary.
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