Careless Driving – Not Design – Responsible For Bridge Crashes
August 3, 2015
After several horrible crashes on Jacksonville Florida’s Buckman bridge, the Florida DOT conducted a study that found that careless driving and speed were responsible for crashes on the bridge, not the bridge design.
The call for the study came after two crashes in the past year made people question the safety of the large span across the St. John’s River. In the first crash, a small truck was sent over the guardrail and into the river. A Navy and police diver search located the driver’s body several hours later. In another crash in March of this year, a disabled SUV was struck by a semi and burst into flames, killing a mother and her three children.
The pickup crash into the river was not the first time a vehicle had gone over the railing into the river and the latest crash caused local residents and officials to question whether the railings on the bridge were high enough. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was tasked with conducting the study.
In the study, released by FDOT last week, the researchers looked at the previous five year history of crashes, both on the bridge and stretches of I-295 approaching each end. The researchers concluded that the structure of the eight-lane, three mile long double span met all safety requirements and didn’t contribute to the crashes, either on or adjacent to the bridge.
Instead, the researchers blamed careless driving and high speeds for the crashes. In their study, the researchers monitored average speeds throughout the day. In spite of the posted 65 mph speed limit, the researchers said that drivers drive at an average of 72 mph on the bridge.
Careless driving and distracted drivers also play a big part in the crashes on the bridge. In the crash that sent the pickup truck into the river, police reported that a distracted driver swerved to avoid hitting the car ahead and clipped the pickup truck sending it spinning over the bridge railing.
In the crash involving the family, as a driver behind the stalled SUV slowed to a stop, it was hit from behind by the driver of a large truck. As the first vehicle spun out of the lane, the truck plowed ahead and hit the SUV sending it into the guardrail where it burst into flames.
We have written before that there is no such thing as a motor vehicle “accident.” Accidents are something we have no control over. Motor vehicle crashes are caused by drivers who make a fatal error, such as; speeding, driving under the influence, or not paying attention to the road ahead.
Speed causes problems because a speeding driver has very little time to react when encountering a problem in the road ahead. Speeding also increases the impact forces in a crash.
A bridge like the Buckman carries a tremendous amount of traffic and, along with speeding drivers, there are slow drivers (probably on a cell phone) and drivers weaving in and out of lanes. The bridge has a high hump in the middle to allow for boat traffic and, if there’s an obstruction or problem ahead, a speeding, distracted driver won’t realize it until it’s too late. If ever there was a time to ignore the distractions and concentrate on the road ahead, it’s on a bridge like this one.
Speeding and distracted drivers, along with all the other drivers are trapped within the confines of the bridge and, should a problem occur ahead, there’s no room to escape. Drivers need to maintain a safe following distance of at least two seconds and watch, not only at what’s directly in front, but also as far down the road as possible. When driving over the hump, drivers should anticipate the possibility of problems ahead and give themselves extra room to maneuver or stop.
The only recommendations made by the researchers were for greater enforcement of the speed limit and for electric signs ahead of the bridge to warn of crashes or stalled vehicles on the bridge.
Read more: FDOT releases findings on Buckman Bridge crashes
Photo credit: First Coast News