According to a safety group, the section of highway in New York where a highway crash sent seven members of a Bronx family flying over a guardrail and plummeting to their deaths has narrow lanes, steep hills, tight turns, inadequate guardrails and no breakdown lane. The Bronx River Parkway “lacks modern transportation engineering features,” according to Robert Sinclair, spokesman for the American Automobile Association’s New York City affiliate. Sinclair said the parkway was conceived in 1907 and opened in 1925 as “the first limited access multilane highway in the U.S.”
Three sections of the parkway in the Bronx, including one at or near the crash site, are on the state Transportation Department’s 5% List, a federally-mandated report of locations “exhibiting the most severe highway safety needs.” The driver, Maria Gonzalez, clipped a highway divider and damaged a tire before her SUV plunged off a highway and six stories down into a ravine on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. Three generations of a family, including three children, were killed.
Reportedly, the state Department of Transportation is working closely with all agencies involved to determine the cause of this tragic incident. The crash was the second in the past year where a car fell off the same stretch of the parkway. Fortunately, the first incident didn’t cause deaths. But in 2006, six people were killed on the parkway when one car crossed the median into oncoming traffic.
The driver in the most recent crash, Maria Gonzalez, was driving south at 68 mph when she bumped a concrete barrier separating the north- and southbound lanes. With one tire damaged, her Honda Pilot crossed over three lanes of traffic, hit a two-foot-high concrete curb and went airborne, clearing a 4-foot-tall guardrail. There was a curb at that location, which is most unusual. It’s not a good safety practice to put curbs on high-speed roadways because they can serve as launching pads. That appears to have been a factor in what happened in this incident, when the Gonzalez vehicle flew over the four-foot guardrail.
A guardrail should be higher when used on an elevated roadway such as this one. Ms. Gonzalez was driving well above the posted 50 mph limit, but speeding is common at that point and she may have been simply keeping up with traffic, according to a New York Police Department spokesman. Neither is there any evidence Ms. Gonzalez was texting, on a phone, or had been drinking. There was no evidence of her vehicle having any mechanical failure, according to the police. All seven of the victims, who were wearing seat belts, died from blunt force trauma. This was a tragic occurrence that could have been prevented.
Source: Insurance Journal
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