Huge rubber flaps, clanging cow bells, bold neon signage — all have been tried, but nothing has prevented what’s become a troubling back-to-school ritual in Boston: oversized vehicles crashing into bridges on the city’s parkways. The state’s efforts to stop these accidents have been creative, but apparently not sufficient.
Trucks and buses are prohibited from Storrow Drive, Memorial Drive, and Soldiers Field Road. Yet at least 20 box trucks, tourist buses, and tractor trailers have hit overpasses on these stretches since 2007, according to state statistics. There’s obviously a cost — though the state Department of Transportation doesn’t precisely track it — to extracting stuck vehicles, fixing damage to bridges, and unsnarling traffic. Moreover, a February bus crash that injured 30 people, four seriously, underscored the dangers to passengers and other drivers.
In the past, state officials have claimed little can be done, because most crashes are the result of drivers who aren’t used to operating trucks and don’t realize that all those “Danger: Low Clearance” signs are meant for them. At the least, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the parkways, was smart to replace lost and faded warning signs this year. The agency has also reached out to local universities, landlords, real estate licensing boards, truck rental agencies, and GPS manufacturers, asking each to spread the word about the low clearance.
Nonetheless, further steps would be wise. Given how frequently bridge strikes correlate with student moving days, state police patrols should be increased during these weeks, with officers stationed at prime on-ramps to stop larger vehicles from ever getting on parkways.
Finally, it’s notable that drivers who strike bridges are fined just $200. The fine should be raised significantly — and then clearly advertised on road signs. If word gets around that authorities are cracking down, perhaps that will finally get drivers’ attention.