New bill would charge truck drivers $500 for entering Connecticut state parkways

Merritt Parkway in Connecticut / Image: State of Connecticut

Merritt Parkway in Connecticut / Image: State of Connecticut

Truck drivers who enter state parkways while traveling through Connecticut may soon be hit with a $500 fine, five times higher than the standing penalty.

A bill that would raise the fine in an attempt to dissuade trucks from illegally driving on state parkways passed the Connecticut House of Representatives 98-45 earlier this week. State Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport) said the bill was needed because of the number of trucks that get stuck under bridges on the parkways.

The bill defines a parkway as “any state highway receiving special treatment in landscaping and marginal planting, especially designed for, and devoted exclusively to, the use and accommodation of noncommercial motor vehicle traffic and to which access may be allowed only at highway intersections designated by the Department of Transportation commissioner and designed to eliminate cross traffic of vehicles.”

Connecticut has two main parkways--Merritt and Wilbur Cross. When a truck got stuck under a bridge on Merritt Parkway earlier this month, Stafstrom took to Facebook to promote the bill.

“This happens WAY too often and the driver fine is only about $100 bucks,” Stafstrom wrote. “I have a bill to significantly increase the fine, improving public safety and reducing delay. Thanks to my Judiciary Committee colleagues for voting it out of committee.”

The most recent incident happened after the bill made it out of committee and just three days before the bill passed the House.

The bill’s opponents included 38 republicans and eight democrats. Those who opposed the bill were concerned about the financial impact a $500 fine could have on owner-operators, according to a report from the local news publication, CT Post.

One representative who voted against the bill, Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport), was a career truck driver.

Hennessy called the bill “a little outrageous,” noting that most truck drivers who find themselves on the parkways are there by mistake, according to the CT Post report.

If drivers do receive a ticket, their options for remedying the situation depend on their state of residence. Connecticut residents who commit a violation may either plead not guilty or pay the established fine. The same goes for residents of other states that are part of the Interstate Driver License Compact.

The Interstate Driver License Compact is an agreement between 45 states to share information about license suspensions and other traffic violations of non-residents. The only states that do not participate in the agreement are Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Drivers from non-participating states will have to follow a different procedure to handle their violations.

“The law prohibits [these violators] from pleading or paying by mail but requires him or her to, instead, post a bond with the local police issuing the summons in the amount of the fine and any additional fees,” the bill reads.

The bill will now head to the Connecticut State Senate for further consideration.