On November 9, 2009 a driver of a large freight truck plunged off the roadway of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and died. According to news reports, he was driving ten miles over the posted speed limit. There has been discussion in the media about how to slow drivers down before they get to the tricky new S curve on the bridge, which was installed recently as part of the big project to replace the bridge with a more earthquake resistant version.
I thought of an idea that might help slow people down a lot.
Many bridge commuters carry so-called FasTrac electronic toll passes. These passes charge the users’ accounts when they pass through a toll booth.
My idea is to put sets of FasTrac sensors on the section of the bridge where the speed limit is reduced due to the S curve.
The first sensor would capture the ID of the FasTrac device. The second sensor would capture the ID and calculate how long it had been since that same ID had been captured by the first sensor. If the time interval was short enough to prove speeding, the account holder would be charged a speeding fine immediately and the device would beep to tell the user their account had been hit. A sign on the bridge could advertise the size of the potential fine to discourage speeding. The fine could increase each time the account holder violated the speed limit. An email copy of each FasTrac speeding ticket could be sent to the account holder to further prod drivers to slow down.
My idea does not require extra police patrols, and would help slow drivers down at all hours. The tragic truck accident happened around 3 in the morning, when few police patrols are practical.
While my idea may raise legal issues, I think it has the chance to save lives at relatively low cost. It would certainly get a lot of publicity as people debate the idea of immediate fines the driver learns about instantly. In Europe I understand that traffic cameras identify speeders, but the drivers learn about their infractions days later by postal mail. I think if a driver knows they will definitely get a ticket every time they speed on the bridge, their speed will drop dramatically and with more assurance than any other method I’ve heard of.
Yes, drivers can put their FasTrac device in a special bag to avoid detection, but the act of taking the device off of the windshield and hiding it may be enough to remind drivers they could fly off the bridge if they drive too fast.