Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The lesson of the Bronx River Parkway tragedy: speed does kill

It's all over the news here, and probably mentioned around the country. A woman was driving 68 in a 50-mph zone on an elevated stretch of the Bronx River Parkway, hit the concrete divider and veered back across the lanes, with the SUV then going over the guard rail and falling several stories. All seven vehicle occupants died.

Already politicians are calling to improve "safety" on the road, but there was a simple thing the driver could have done to prevent the accident entirely: slow down. This Daily News op-ed calls for "better driver training," but all Gonzalez needed to do was not speed. I intentionally avoid the BRP when possible, instead taking the "Hutch" and Cross County Parkway if I can. The added miles and time are worth an easier and safer drive. The BRP's turns and narrow lanes (which are in fact wider where this accident happened!) are dangerous enough at posted speed limits. Now add in lots of crazy drivers who can't handle the lanes, drifting over the lines -- especially those who think their SUVs can maneuver like a Mini Cooper, going 15-20 over the limit in blatant disregard for the safety of their passengers and everyone else.

Of course, government officials must try to look good, offering solutions that might sound good but will in fact just make things worse. If there had been a high edge wall, as the Bronx Borough President is now proposing, here's what would have happened: the SUV would have hit the right wall and not gone over, but it would have caused a worse accident with heaven-only-knows how many cars behind them. Cars would have slammed into the stopped Pilot, and many more people would have died in the resulting pile-up. As cold as it sounds to say, at least Gonzalez killed only herself and six of her family without taking others with them.

Only years later could I understand the times my father would tell us to be quiet in the car. Besides being obnoxious as children are wont to be, we were distracting him and could well get us all killed. The old man once mentioned a good friend who died in a tragic accident. He was driving his family back from a trip, and they weren't very far from home when it happened. It was his friend's fault, and as my father figured, everyone was excited at getting home, and the father was distracted. I suspect this is what happened to Gonzalez, who with her family members were headed to a reunion.

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