A bill passed recently by the Vermont House and Senate will, if signed into law, increase fines for truck drivers caught driving on a section of Vermont Route 108 through Smugglers’ Notch.
The scenic section of highway connects two ski resorts and goes over the top of a mountain. At the top of the mountain, there is a boulder field with an “extreme turning radius,” says Col. Jake Elovirta, director of enforcement and safety for the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. Elovirta said trucks longer than 46 feet have problems navigating through the area, and between two and 10 trucks get stuck each year, despite signs banning trucks from entering the corridor. When a truck gets stuck, the corridor has to be shut down, sometimes for hours, Elovirta says, and the only recourse is a $162 fine.
The new bill ups the fine for trucks going through Smugglers’ Notch to $1,000, and if a truck gets stuck and impedes traffic, it will be a $2,000 fine. For repeat offenders within a two-year period, the fines will be doubled.
“The corridor has been posted for some time,” Elovirta said. “Drivers just aren’t paying attention. What we hear most is that a dispatcher told the driver to go that way, or that’s the way the GPS told them to go. I think it comes down to drivers relying too much on technology and ignoring signage.”
The legislation also directs the Vermont Agency of Transportation to put up more signage to try to get drivers’ attention. Elovirta said his department is looking at a few options, including technology such as sensors that would detect the length of a truck and send a message to a sign ahead that would tell them to turn around.
Since 2009, there have been 38 reports of trucks getting stuck with the most recent being May 26. There were four reports of stuck trucks in 2015, and seven in 2014. The most active year for trucks getting stuck in the corridor was 2013, when 10 trucks were reported stuck.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin still has to sign the legislation into law, and Elovirta said he expects it to be signed by the end of this week.