Monday, November 09, 2009

Bay Bridge S-Curve Claims First Life

A truck traveling 50 mph, 10 mph over the posted speed limit, crashed over the rail of the bay bridge S-curve and plunged 200 feet landing on its wheels on Yerba Buena island below. The driver did not survive the crash.

This is the 44th accident on this new section of the bay bridge since it reopened on September 8th, with the newly civil engineered S-curve in place. Though authorities all point to driver error and excessive speed as the common denominator in these accidents many are questioning the S-curve design's safety.

I've questioned whether the civil engineer designing of the S-curve considered the habit of drivers traveling above the posted speed limit and using devices such as cell phones while behind the wheel. They claim the S-curve is safe at 40 mph with an alert and cautious driver behind the wheel. Well, pre S-curve driver habits across the bay bridge did not fit this spec of 40 mph, so why would they assume that post S-curve drivers would change their driving habits? Did they think drivers would know the S-curve becomes potentially deadly at 50 mph?

Bottom line, somebody screwed up. They allowed a deadly bridge design to be approved and put in place without including one important criteria in their safety study formula; human habit.

All it would've taken before S-curve implementation is to have put one of those fancy cameras in the prior curve, with radar like the one that catches you zooming through yellow stop lights. I've been traveling the bay bridge for years and experience tells me that cars travel above 50 mph on average over the bridge. I do not hold an engineering degree but the cautionary centrifugal pull of the old curve was enough to warn against making it sharper and/or adding a second curve.

So sure, the design might be flawless in a cyber world where cyber people abide by the laws and rules of the game. But the S-curve exists in the real world people, and in the real world real people sometimes ignore the laws and rules that are put in place for their protection. If this were not so then we wouldn't need cameras at traffic lights now would we?

So how do you fix a design that has attributed to 44 human mistakes resulting in accidents?

1. Toll Booth handouts to drivers to change their driving habits when crossing the curvy bay bridge

2. Post flashing 40 mph caution signs on the bridge in hopes that drivers will abide by them

3. Redesign the S-curve after performing a thorough safety study which includes driver habit

4. Put a radar camera in the S-curve with posted warnings of a $275 speeding fine

Its not about pointing the finger at who did what wrong or saving tax payer dollars. Its about saving lives. If the S-curve becomes a permanent structure, we might as well start the fatality counter just as the Golden Gate bridge once counted suicide jumpers. As of today the bay bridge fatality count stands at 00001 and counting.

See Article by Yobie Benjamin:

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