Videos of 11-foot-8 trestle eating 12-foot trucks

The Gregson Street train trestle in Durham, NC, is 11-foot-8-inches high. Occasionally, a driver of a 12-foot-tall truck approaching the trestle doesn't pay heed to the flashing warning lights and gets the top ripped off his trailer. It happens often enough that Jürgen Henn has a Web site called with videos of the unfortunate incidents.

Low clearance can be a real challenge for a truck driver. Especially inexperienced drivers of rental boxtrucks seem to be quite oblivious to the warning signs and flashing "overheight" warning lights at this railroad trestle in Durham, NC. So frequently do trucks crash into the 11-foot-8 clearance trestle, that the railroad company installed a crash beam in front of it. This massive steel I-beam bears the brunt of the impact, protecting the structure that supports this fairly busy railroad track. Believe it or not - they already had to replace the beam once!

The videos of these crashes document the severity of the impact, and they show how frequently these crashes produce a real hazard for pedestrians and other vehicles.

Clearly, the warning signs aren't enough to stop all drivers. Maybe the city could lower the street under the trestle? Or add a stop sign? I'm sure they've thought of those things already.

Yovo's Bridgecam of trucks hitting a trestle (Via Cynical-C)


  1. Why would they lower the street below? It’s not the trucks’ wheels that are the issue – it’s the roofs.

  2. Maybe they could make it a 15mph zone. Those cars are going pretty fast. At any rate, I want to see a crash while a train is going over the trestle. Oh, and fill the truck with watermelons and live chickens.

    1. Today, a truck got stuck under the Gregson St. trestle while a freight
      train was crossing overhead:

      1. Magic!

        They need a dumpster there with a sign that says Please Place Truck Roof In Bin After Crash.

    2. Oh, and fill the truck with watermelons and live chickens.

      What do you want to do? Recreate a wacky street market incident in a 1960s-1970s action film?

      Anyone know of any site that compiles clips & pics of fruit carts, newsstands and other street times being crashed into in film/TV.

    3. There is a video of a truck crashing thru the bridge while a train is crossing over it! Check out YouTube: yovo68 “Truck Hits 11foot8 Trestle As Train Is Crossing.” Enjoy!

  3. They should just hang a ‘soft type’ thing on the same height about 50 yards before the bridge.

    I’ve seen lots of parking lots that had similar things.

    (waiting for max headroom reference)

  4. Hey Mark,
    I saw your write-up in the latest edition of Around the Oval. Nice! I didn’t know you graduated from C.S.U. Go Rams!

  5. Maybe they should just post stills from these videos on the approach to the trestle…or include them in the paperwork for truck rentals.

  6. Why not stick a decal on the inside of the windshield, maybe near the upper center, that shows the truck’s height? Make the sign look like the clearance signs; yellow with black block numbering. That way it’s right there in front of the driver – if their number is higher than the one by the bridge, STOP THE TRUCK AND FIND ANOTHER ROUTE. Putting the info in a place which forces them to look at it the whole time they’re driving might help to combat this problem.

  7. I wonder if it would be that hard to lower the road level a couple feet near under the bridge, plus of course adding something to drain the water that would accumulate there.

  8. This really comes down to training. When I was in truck driver training my instructor made me read off the clearance of every overpass we went under. How many untrained drivers rent a U-haul truck or an RV and drive off without knowing their vehicle’s height?

    And as a side note, sometimes the clearances listed aren’t even correct.

  9. I was a witness to a crash like this at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. A train bridge took off half the roof of a large semi trailer with surgical precision. This may well be the loudest form of automobile accident.

  10. why not build smaller gates in similar heights in the roads leading to that overpass and when one of them gets hit the traffic lights switch to an all red and alerting the police or sth.?

    build a laser switch in crash height that triggers major flashing and honking.

    build weight sensitive switches in the road to recognize a truck when it approaches.

    slow down traffic in front of the overpass with bumpers.

    make it a “no trucks allowed” road.

    and all that is just from the top of my head….

    the truck drivers are just fulfilling statistics here. and so will the unlucky pedestrian who will get killed in a long enough time line.
    the question seems not to be if, but when someone gets seriously hurt.

    apparently this problem is known for a long time and the only solution people came up with is

  11. I agree that they are going pretty fast under that trestle. It does have flashing lights. The driver was probably thinking to himself, “Oh flashing lights. Hmmm what does that sign say? 11 feet 8 inches? How high is my—. F$%K!!!”

    Yea I laughed each time I have watched this video so I’m gonna stop now.

    1. Good point: how many rental truck drivers know the height of their truck? Not that you don’t have the opportunity, but if you don’t think about such things on a regular basis, that probably is the exact thought process that occurs. With the exception of tractor trailer drives*, most vehicle drivers think in two dimensions.

      * There is a subset of those folks who are exceptions to the exception: we see video of semi-trucks stuck underneath the first bridge they come to on the parkways north of NYC, having ignored the no commercial traffic signs as well as the limited height ahead warnings.

      PS. Wonder if there are any examples of the active warning devices – hanging chains, etc. – on public streets?…

  12. As a liberal myself, I just have to say that two of the “answers” here are exactly the kinds of things that people who bash liberals would cite:

    1. Let’s make *every* driver going by stop at a sign so that trucks don’t run into the bridge.

    2. Let’s make *everyone* slow down to 15 mph so that less than 0.001% of the traffic doesn’t hit the bridge.

    That kind of well-intentioned but knee-jerk “think of all the people who get hurt!” reaction is killing freedom. Even one case every day shouldn’t justify making every other driver slow down for no reason. It’s like you *want* people to disobey the laws.

    There was another great suggestion on here: remind people who rent the trucks of the danger. That way you target the people whose behavior actually needs changing. Educate instead of taking away freedom.

    I realize this is a small point, but it also is one that alters the world it which we live. A stop sign here, a 15 mph sign there, and pretty soon the whole world is impassable (but we’re all “safe”!)

    1. I realize this is a small point

      actually, it’s a small bridge.

      much smaller than the one you’re reaching for, and which nobody is buying.

      you know what kills freedom? bringing politics into posts about bridges. Go get your own soapbox.

    2. The flaw with that line of thinking is that it presumes a “right” to go fast with minimal delays. A majority of drivers tend to get really upset when slow drivers and especially bicyclists interfere with their perceived “right” to go fast.

      I’m on board with the idea of educating people who rent trucks and especially showing them particular trouble spots in the area on a map.

      Is there some reason who lowering the road isn’t feasible? Would that make the road lower than the rainwater drainage system, for example?

      1. Well technically it’s just as much as a right as the right to go the speed limit…

        So when someone is going 15 under the speed limit for no perceivable reason I do tend to get upset.

        (Hench the reason for passing zones, that and agriculture vehicles only go so fast.)

        If you are hauling a precarious load, have your flashers on, or appear to be having issues, it’s not a problem for me to hang back, slow down, and let you make your way.

        When I moved into my current house I rented a 26 foot U-Haul. On the way here I didn’t think about one trestle I had to pass under. It was rated at 12’6″, and the U-Haul 11’6′ or so… Needless to say I tapped my brakes and everyone backed off, slowed down to like 10 or so and eased it through with no issues. I bet my heart rate was well over 150.

    3. All drivers should know the limitations of their vehicle. Educating rental truck customers should do the trick. However, I’d be very surprised if the height restriction is buried in the fine print customers don’t read when signing the rental agreement.

      So how would liberal thought expand on this for a solution?

    4. As a liberal myself, Im always suspicious of people who say “As a liberal myself” and then proceed to say one person’s solution (who did not give a political affiliation) is stupid and, by the way, categorically liberal. or was it: categorically liberal and therefore stupid?

      In any case, the clincher is: only a non- or anti-liberal would use such phrases as “knee-jerk” and “killing freedom.” is that way.

      1. MarkM and MDH:

        You probably won’t see this, but I just have to say – those are both seriously dickish answers, and uncalled for. It seems like an increasing number of commentators (and occasionally moderators) delight in telling you who you are based upon a few words.

        I damn well fall within the traditional liberal lines:
        – I believe in freedom for people of all groups
        – I vote for liberal candidates and environmental protection
        – I have worked in renewable energy for the last ten years.

        What I am protesting is the mindset of the nanny state, where every bad thing that happens is a new reason to make new legislation for everyone.

        You may think worrying about personal freedom is petty; I don’t. If you disagree, you could at least tell me why, not try to attack who I am.

        1. Imag, it seems to me that you are both liberal and conservative, as those words were used before they became media franchises for mental midgets.

          Anyone who fits exclusively into the popular image of “conservative” or “liberal” is almost certainly too intellectually limited to be worth bothering with.

  13. A device that punctures the tires could be activated upon overheight detection. That would obviate the need to alter the road, altering, instead, the truck on an as-needed basis.

  14. Well, we’ve got the technology to put all sorts of things in there since maths are hard, and the great, big writing inside the cabs of these trucks that tells the driver the height obviously isn’t working.

    1. This is far more tragic than funny, by the amount of times it seems to happen. It would really suck to happen to you.

      As dhalgren said above, by the time a driver realizes the truck height, it’s too late.

      And there’s no “oh it won’t happen to me, I’m too smart and observant”. It’s very easy to get into your car-driving habits while in a rental truck and overlook a 12′ clearance.

      These are failures of cognitive psychology and thus should be treated that way. It’s not about maths being hard and creating more technology atop civil engineering.

  15. Given the fact this happens regularly. I’m sure by the time you factor in the electricity for the flashing sign, the emergency call outs and the guy who comes to sweep up the bits of truck, it would have been cheaper to lower the road by 6 inches on boths sides and under the bridge.

    1. The back of your envelope is not large enough for the calculation you’ve made. Your most faulty assumption is that car traffic is more important.

      1. “The back of your envelope is not large enough for the calculation you’ve made. Your most faulty assumption is that car traffic is more important. ”

        Your most faulty assumption is assuming to know my assumptions.

  16. Speaking as someone who has lived in the area, and as someone who was IN a motorhome which almost made this mistake, at this very bridge, part of the problem (at least used to be) in the design.

    Unless the city has added more signs, the over-height sign and warning lights are not visible from a great distance away. At the time of our near-accident, there was no indication that there even might be a low-clearance area ahead until you came to these signs.

    Even if you weren’t speeding (and we weren’t), going the legal speed limit in this area meant that it was very hard to stop before hitting the bridge, especially since the large vehicles most likely to be overheight take a greater length to stop.

    If you don’t almost immediately recognize what the sign indicates and stop, you might hit the bridge.

    Maybe these changes have been made, but either lowering the speed limit (which would effectively decrease the stopping distance needed) or warning drivers earlier about the low clearance, would reduce the number of collisions.

    On the other hand, both of these drivers seemed to be moving at full speed, so there’s a limit to how much engineering can overcome carelessness.

    BTW, when I lived there, this road was two-way, so even more potential for third party involvement in truck/bridge encounters.

  17. Ah, this brings me back. There’s a rail overpass in downtown Northampton MA which is even lower, and dispite many signs about the height and an alternate truck route EVERY FALL someone moving to college gets their rental truck stuck under it.

    The Noho dream bridge (note dent. it looks worse on the other side and has OUCH painted on it.):

    In my mind the simplest way to prevent these things would be to install one of those “no vehicles over 11’6″ ” flappy signs like you see in parking garage entrances. They’re set up at the maximum height allowed so if you’re over-height you’ll strike them. but they’re on chains so they won’t crush you, you’ll just get a friendly little slap.

    1. Ah yes, that bridge! I go to college in the area so I know that one. I think they start warning you at least a mile or two back or something, too. After the bridge, just after you enter Northampton from the east, they have a truck route for route 9 (which I take all the time as it’s faster than going through town). I think they make it pretty easy to avoid…

      I lived in CT when I was very young and one of my few vivid memories is a bridge where trucks would get themselves wedged under all the time.

  18. I wonder if attempts to alter the trestle are stymied by the railroad’s ownership of the tracks?

    There’s a crossing like this in Chicago, on Fullerton near Elston. About once a month it would “eat” a trailer. Signs, flashing lights, nothing seemed to stop the buffet.

  19. I’ve seen a lot of drag signs (with weights at the clearance height) before bridges like this. This would not affect anyone with a lower vehicle, and save a lot on accidents. People who don’t know how high their truck is, or just aren’t used to thinking about it (rentals for example) will be given pause by the scraping noise on the roof.

    Of course, some are just intractably stupid and will drive right on, but I bet it would save a LOT of trucks. And yeah, drivers “should” be smart, and “should” know the height of their trucks, and “should” pay attention to big signs with flashing lights…but clearly they don’t.

    Time for whomever has authority over this road to put up a drag sign.

  20. Sadly there are some in Durham who routinely ignore warning signals like the one shown here. There are many street level railroad crossings in town and I have seen traffic back up at lights with cars on the railroad tracks. I’ve had people honk at me to move forward onto the tracks before the lights have changed! Someone was killed recently because she was trapped on the crossing by traffic in front and back and the train came and hit her car. Some massive public education is needed!

  21. OK – so here are some additional facts to consider regarding this big, ole canopener: The roadbed cannot be significantly lowered without massive construction because there is a sewer main just below the road. Also, the road is a state road, and the city has no jurisdiction over it.

    There can’t be any physical barriers before the bridge, because every day delivery trucks well over 11-foot-8 height drive all the way up to the bridge and turn onto Peabody. (see Google Streetview)

    This is a 25MPH zone – but the traffic (incl trucks) regularly zips by at 35-45 MPH. At that speed the flashing lights kick in too late for the driver to stop, provided he sees them at all. The only thing I have seen that seems to work is to slow down the traffic to the speed limit.

    I also like to point out that almost every day I see trucks tripping the lights, slowing down and turning. So the signage works just fine when the driver pays attention and drives the speed limit.

    So in the meantime these videos serve as a warning … and produce the occasional Schadenfreudegasm.

  22. This happens in Boston pretty reliably every year on Storrow Drive. It’s an old road with a lot of very low bridges over it, and every September 1st, what do you get in a big college town? Rental trucks by the fistful.

    The fact this happens reliably enough for someone to set up a webcam is pretty fantastic.

    1. Do they still have that radio contest “Big Bucks for Stuck Trucks,” where you try to guess the day and minute the first U-Haul of the semester will get stuck on Storrow Drive?

  23. Lowering the road isn’t going to work.

    Locally we have one of these bridges that has been hit often enough to get the sacrificial beams and now height detectors.

    The thing is it’s 14′ one way and 14’6″ the other. Furthermore, any truck over 14′ needs a permit to use that road anyway–anyone who hits it was already illegal.

  24. OK, having been one myself, I don’t dispute that rental-truck drivers are capable of epic stupidity, and I don’t excuse them for ignoring the warning lights.

    But is it possible that bridge is marked wrong? Has anyone measured it lately? Did they repave the road and raise it since the signs were put in?

    The reason I wonder this is that, when I had a my rental truck a few years ago, a 24-foot cargo truck much like those in the video, it was very, very clearly marked as being 11 feet 6 inches high — this was written on the dashboard, and written in reverse on the front of the box, so the driver can see it in their mirror. It wasn’t subtle.

    So a driver might see the sign, compare with the dashboard sign, and conclude, “11-6 is less than 11-8, I’m fine, those lights must be for someone else.”

    1. We rent a lot of 24′ box trucks at my company. I can’t think of a single one that was shorter than 12′-6″. Most modern box trucks (except maybe U-Haul) have a bed height around 48″ and an interior height of a bit more than 96″.

      Like yours, the heights are all made very obvious. Any driver paying a modicum of attention will see this.

      While I believe it’s entirely possible that the clearance under that bridge isn’t *exactly* 11′-8″, I think in most cases we’re talking about a difference in height of much more than an inch or two.

      Besides, in my experience, the people who mark these bridges tend to mark it conservatively. If anything, the clearance is likely to be a couple inches *more* than what the sign says.

      1. Interesting.

        Ours was a Ryder truck, and I personally drove it (carefully) under this bridge.

        But evidently 11’6” isn’t some kind of standard, from what you’re saying it sounds like it’s just what we happened to have, so that’s germane to the discussion.

        It’s perfectly possible I’m mis-remembering the truck size, like maybe it was a 20-foot instead of 24, or something.

        I was pretty conscious of the height of the thing, my problems were with the other two dimensions — you get good width cues from the mirrors, except for how far the mirrors themselves stick out. and I found it was hard to know when it was safe to change lanes, because it’s hard to judge how far back the thing goes from the fore-shortened cab view. I made a couple of mistakes in each of these dimensions, but managed not to bend any metal or hurt anyone.

  25. There’s a train trestle at 3rd Street and Eastern Parkway in Louisville on the UofL campus like this. Occasionally we’d be in class and hear a sickening crunch. “Bridge must have got another one.”

  26. This kind of damage is common enough that U-Haul’s insurance doesn’t cover damage to the top of the truck you rent.

    And they make that very clear when you’re renting. We drove one down from Wisconsin down to Texas recently, and were very conscious of all height signage because of this. Fortunately interstates don’t tend to have many (any?) bridges this low.

  27. A friend of mine collects the pieces of metal scraped off of the tops and sides of trucks by an underpass near his house. Some of these are very beautiful; they like large scraps of rhythmically pleated silk dipped in an aluminum bath.

  28. When I was a body man for Greyhound, they had this happen every couple of years or so. Mostly trainee drivers, on unfamiliar routes.

    Took a lot of work to rebuild the front 5 feet of the roof on one of those things. Here’s a picture of the donor bus for most of the parts for one of the repairs :

    The funniest thing is that the last person who did that before I left (I was fixing the damage – fun!) got hired by the local transit company. At least the city buses are shorter.

  29. Dangling chains back aways from the bridge. Annoying to the truckers who turn just before the bridge but essentially harmless.

  30. It seems that the trucks which got caught were all empty. Is the height info on a truck given for loaded, empty, or both? I could see one-time rental truck drivers having no idea that the truck rides higher when empty.

    I agree that a non-damaging sign makes the most sense…as long as it doesn’t harm the trucks that know to turn before the bridge.

  31. For real truck drivers, you can buy city maps with the heights of all underpasses listed. Best way to fix this would be a GPS unit in the truck that yelled at drivers approaching underpasses. And it should say “Ducka you heada! Lowa bridgea!”

  32. The sign ahead of some of these is supposed to serve as a tell-tale. In railroading, a tell-tale was hung across the tracks ahead of low clearance structures, usually bridges or tunnels, and basically it said “If you are taller than these ropes hanging down here, you can’t ride this ride.”
    Of course, when you’re doing 45 MPH, what’s the point?

  33. I didn’t see any more than one trucks.

    The Headline used a plural noun. It said, “trucks”.

    Were there more than one trucks/idiots at the wheels?

    Just askings.

    1. Anon @60. The headline also says “Videos”. If you go to the YouTube site, you’ll see more videos, generally with one truck per.

  34. Something else to consider is that, if these people are on the last leg of a cross-country move, they may have other things on their mind besides watching out for low-bridge signs and may be road-fogged anyway; they may have taken careful note of the height of the truck–a thousand miles ago.

  35. The roads out of new york were build with low bridges to intentionally keep out trucks and mass transit. Robert Caro covers this in “The Power Broker” bio of Robert Moses.
    -arbitrary aardvark

  36. This is a design failure on the part of the highway system. Effectively, truck manufacturers and highway engineers couldn’t agree on a universal minimum height for overpasses.

    We’ve adapted to their failure by putting up signs, and attempting to use training. This works well enough, at least for the professional truck drivers. But it’s not particularly good for your average rental driver.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why isn’t it the driver’s responsibility to track the safety of the road? The answer is, the driver is responsible for the variables a highway engineer isn’t in the position to control for. In other words, other cars. Consider — next time you’re on the freeway, find things you can get into a head on collision with. You’ll notice there’s few, bordering on none, that are actually concrete poles or the like. Everything is soft and glancing.

    This is by design.

    Of course, the reality is that this is something of a legacy problem — the train system in America used to be far more powerful than it is today, and they simply made decisions about 11’8″ when everyone else decided on 12′. Altering tracks and altering roads is both expensive, blaming users/drivers is cheap. So.

    1. No, it’s not bad design, Dan.

      The Casho Mill trestle near me was designed and built before automobiles were available around here. It was perfectly adequate for horses and ox-drawn carts.

      The size of the largest trucks used today is determined by the size of the cargo that needs to be moved today. That happens to be larger than the Casho Mill trestle can accomodate; other roads are available.

      Let me invoke a metaphor: If you stared at the sun during an eclipse and burnt out your vision, would you blame poor design of the sun, or poor design of your eyeballs? I would blame either bad parenting or simple stupidity.

  37. There’s a bit of a human factors failure here, too, though it might not be obvious. There’s already a height detector to turn on flashing yellow lights at the overpass.

    Shouldn’t those lights be red? Red, as in “Stop, you idiot, before you peel the top off of your truck?”

  38. Old joke.

    Irish truck(lorry?)driver smashes into a low bridge in Dublin. A police car shows up and the garda gets out. Slowly he walks all the way around the truck. Finally he goes up to the drivers’ window and asks:

    “Are you stuck?”

    The driver replies:

    “No, I’m delivering a bridge and I’ve lost the address.”

  39. I tried and tried but could not find any video of it, but our Harbour Tunnel here in Sydney Australia has a pretty good attention getting device for overheight vehicles.

    A laser sensor ahead of the entrance trips if a vehicle is too high, which creates an awesome spectacle – a waterfall curtain flows over the entire tunnel entrance with “STOP!” projected upon it. Very impressive – to the point I’d like to just try it out :)

    To those who drive past it often – just look for the large dump tank above the tunnel entrance. Cool gizmo!


    1. So if you’re driving a convertible with the top down in Sydney, beware of tall trucks in the rear view mirror when entering tunnels. Check.

  40. oh, but get this – even with this kind of sophistry, you can;t overpower stupidity, ignorance or some other human failing… in May this year a truck got stuck in the tunnel anyway…

    1. you can’t overpower stupidity, ignorance or some other human failing…

      Makes me think of “Against Stupidity, the Gods Themselves contend in vain” –GB Shaw

    1. Yowsa! That’s one seriously impressive STOP sign!

      Looks like it would suck pretty badly if they turned it on just as you were going under it on a motorcycle or in a convertible, though.

  41. OMFG! I cannot believe no one has said this yet!

    Ever heard of a “Hertz Donut”? How about a “Hertz-Pensky”?

    Yes! Yes! I got to say it first!!! Muah, ha, ha, ha!!!

    Luv You All!
    –Dave E.

  42. If the railroad owns the bridge I imagine their aim is to protect the bridge, which a nice big steel barrier does quite nicely. They’re probably not too worried about the trucks.

    Also note that the trucks do wheelies as they hit.

  43. The solution is to add signs to the neighboring streets reading “Beware of Crashing Trucks.”

  44. At the last truck rental outfit I rented from, they had a nice slab of glass over the counter on which you signed the paperwork. It featured news clippings, polaroids and newer digital prints under the glass showing the growth of their fleet as rental drivers drove into the overhanging roof at the gas station conveniently across the street from the counter.5 Ton trucks were the stars of that particular collage.

  45. About 12 years ago, I saw a flatbed truck transporting prefab house components (assembled walls and a roof) on the Baltimore beltway stuck at an underpass. I don’t think the bridge was damaged, but it really did a number on the house, and caused major disruptions to traffic (and it was a Saturday morning, if I recall correctly).

  46. The chief reason I suspect the “lower the road to accommodate bad/untrained/zombie truck drivers wouldn’t work if because the video shows the cross street in front of the bridge has TWO stop signs.

    Why do they need TWO stop signs?

    The subtext seems to imply that regular stop signs are optional but hey, fellas, this intersection? Yeah, here we mean it, so just stop, okay? Please?

  47. I very nearly did this on Storrow Drive in Boston. We had just moved across the country to Brookline. I made it all that way, with a 20 ft long truck and towing a car without incident. Looked up how to get to the rental return place online. It was in Cambridge, a short drive away. Got onto Storrow and nearly had a heart attack. There were all these bridges and no way to get off the road or even turn around.

    Fortunately I squeaked under the bridges and made it to Cambridge only to back the truck into another identical truck, doing cosmetic damage to both of them.

  48. There are thousands of truck eating bridges in the USA alone. The one near my house is hundreds of years old and made of multi-ton stones.

    It’s the task of a driver not to hit things, and in general when you lower the bar of competency required to do something you just permit less capable people to perform that task, and they find some less obvious way to screw up. The phrase “moving the bottleneck” comes to mind.

    I love this thing:

    But it should be constructed so it does really significant, expensive cosmetic damage to the vehicle…

  49. “It’s the task of a driver not to hit things”

    Sort of. The driver bears the brunt of the responsibility for avoiding dynamic threats, while the highway designers focus on static threats. It’s not that there’s no cross-threat responsibility, but that 99% of threats of each class are managed way better by their respective handlers.

    What this means empirically is that a driver assumes, if he doesn’t hit another car, the road is safe. This is true an absurd amount of the time — and that’s the problem.

    Here’s an interesting analogue: As you add cyclists to a city, do you see a greater or a fewer number of accidents per driver? The answer is, the accident rate decreases — the more cyclists, the more drivers are used to them as a threat.

    There aren’t actually enough unsafe bridges to innoculate drivers. Thus, bad design.


    Sure, but we’ve changed things quite a bit since the days of horses and carts. Like, for example, the roads themselves are now concrete or asphalt.

    It’s just really difficult to standardize these heights now, and so we blame drivers.

    1. Sure, but we’ve changed things quite a bit since the days of horses and carts. Like, for example, the roads themselves are now concrete or asphalt.

      The changes are mostly incremental and layered. If you dig through the road that goes by my house, you will find the original 1825 corderoy road down there under a foot or so of asphalt. The original mill race underpass is still under there, too – the stone blocks have been parged with concrete to look like a modern drainage culvert, but every winter some of it cracks off and you can see the bluestone underneath.

      Being something of a historical preservationist myself, I’d rather not spend tax dollars to dig up the roadbeds when only inattentive drivers are being penalized.

      Maybe we just need more low underpasses… it might turn us all into better drivers, and it could channel heavy trucks out of places they don’t belong.

  50. good gravy i’ve never seen so much excuse-making and rationalization about something so simple.

    Some people in this world are stupid.

    Some of those people have driver’s licenses.

    It really is that simple.

  51. And MitchM: I would call the current TSA guidelines and the invasion of Iraq things that were allowed due to “knee jerk” reactions. I think they were both also freedom killers (the latter, literally). I suppose that makes me conservative as well.


  52. The responses in this post are very representative of a facet of American culture that showed up in the thread about prison food, and in the health care discussion, too.

    If someone is “bad” (in jail, or involved in an accident, or ill) then they are seen to deserve everything that happens to them, and there an end. No further thought is felt to be needed.

    In this case, nobody thinks beyond “hahaha stupid driver crashed, stupid driver deserved it”, to see that:

    1) “Stupid driver” has likely been driving for a long time on a deadline and is now tired, and in an unfamiliar city, an unfamiliar vehicle, and passing over an intersection crowded with hazards that require him to keep his eyes on the road. He is, unfortunately, looking at the wrong hazards. Not in any way stupid, just unfortunate.

    2) “Stupid driver” is often not the owner of the damaged contents of the van, nor the damaged van. Insurance doesn’t usually cover this type of damage to vans, because it is so common. So several thousand dollars’ damage without insurance means someone or other has just been financially ruined. The driver, the owner of the van, the owner of the contents, or maybe all three.

    3) There are other people who lose out, too. The people who’s cars are damaged by flying shrapnel (as you see in other videos), the people who are delayed because of the diversion and delays of having the intersection blocked, the business owners who lose out on their work because of those delays, and maybe the insurance companies if anything can be found that they’re willing to pay for.

    But all these people, including every taxpayer who pays for cleanup and bridge reinforcements, clearly “deserved it”, of course.

    1. Dewi – I agree.

      I hope I didn’t come across as advocating the “stupid driver” position. I could well see doing this myself in a moment of inattention.

      The thing that would be most preventing me from running into bridges, though, is if they showed me a video or photo of this happening when I rented the truck. That kind of education has the nice benefit of not requiring every regular car to slow down because of one in ten thousand rental truck drivers.

      And I agree that we have become far to ready to be supercilious. Put cameras everywhere and I think we’ll realize that we all do dumb things sometimes. I wish we would have more compassion rather than using it as another reason to point fingers. And the extension of this attitude to the “lock them away!” mentality in this country is frightening.

      1. Ooh, I like the idea of showing the video, imag.

        For me, what made me painfully aware, when I rended a U-Haul, was them stating several times (both verbally and in signs on the van) that it wasn’t covered by the insurance.

        Well, partly that, and partly the large dent in the front of the box, where someone else had driven it into something.

        so, yeah, a visual demonstration definitely helped me keep it in mind.

    2. Dewi, if I say “it’s the driver’s job not to hit things”, that’s not at all the same as saying “anyone who has bad things happen to them deserved it”.

      You might want to read all the posts before you lump entire threads into one pop-psych “blame the victim” category. Try my #82 for example.

  53. The problem could also be that many menial jobs in the USA such as driving trucks is done by immigrants from other countries. The US is the only country left in the world that uses the antiquated English system of feet and inches for measuring height when the rest of the world uses the metric system.

    A simple solution is to install a height restriction barrier that has a bar with chains that bangs on the roof of the truck warning the driver to stop. Having yellow flashing lights that warn all drivers is incorrect when only a small portion of the drivers need to be warned. Bad usability here – it’s like getting a warning dialog everytime you do something in a software application that only applies 1% of the time. You click OK and continue. This driver unfortunately crashed the system.

  54. I did read all the posts. Yours are firmly in the “only inattentive drivers are being penalized” category. But you’re right that there are others who are not.

    So, yes, I should have been clearer, and said “many of the responses” so it couldn’t be misread as “all of the responses”. Mea culpa.

    But you? It seems that perhaps you were not being as clear as you might either. Because, as I (probably incorrectly) interpret your posts…

    you believe “it’s not bad design” (it is: outdated design is bad design: a bug is still a bug if it’s come about through changing standards rather than by a programming error);
    you believe “only inattentive drivers are being penalized”;
    you believe that making roads safer will make drivers no more safe, and that if they don’t crash there, they’ll just crash somewhere else; and that making roads less safe will make drivers better;
    you believe that it’s not a problem because “other roads are available”;
    you claim to be a historical preservation buff, but believe that a few feet of historical roadbeds is worth more than many historical trucks and any amount of historical antiques within them.

    Perhaps there’s some meaning I’m missing in “it’s not bad design… only inattentive drivers are being penalized” that makes it subtly different to “hahaha stupid driver crashed, stupid driver deserved it”, but to me, it seems quite a reasonable paraphrase.

    1. Perhaps there’s some meaning I’m missing in “it’s not bad design… only inattentive drivers are being penalized” that makes it subtly different to “hahaha stupid driver crashed, stupid driver deserved it”, but to me, it seems quite a reasonable paraphrase.

      I disagree, primarily because I intend no mockery, and I’ll explicitly acknowledge that even the best drivers can be inattentive at times. There’s no “hahaha stupid” in my posts.

      But, see here, take a look at this Google street view:

      You see the big tree in the foreground? It sticks out slightly into the 11-foot wide road; the road would collapse without the roots of this tree holding it up out of the stream.

      I drive by this tree every day at least twice, and about once a week someone has hit it. There are several other trees just like it on the same road, and they get hit by cars all the time too. They have deep, ancient scars and bits of metal in them.

      Those trees are helping keep my children, their pets, and the local wildlife from being killed by automobiles. It’s not a perfect system, since we have lost a cat and five or six deer get hit during the rut every year. But it mostly works, and trains people to be better drivers without killing them.

      If allowing drivers to pay little attention (or conforming to standards that are not backwards-compatible) are overriding goals of public policy, these trees should be cut down.

      A hideous modern superhighway could be built at taxpayer expense, and people could tear along at excessively fuel-wasting, highly polluting speeds, and my idyllic little valley could become a concrete wasteland that would allow drivers to hit each other at a hundred miles an hour. Right now, all that is impossible, because it’s an 1825 road.

      In #82 I endorsed a pragmatically useful solution (that is already being successfully used in some areas) to the low bridge problem. Use it as a driver training program by hanging beams on chains, beams large enough to do extensive and expensive cosmetic damage to trucks.

      I have a low-branched chestnut tree on my property that serves the same function. One of my neighbors has an Osage Orange that smashes the hell out of trucks all the time, which teaches them to obey the “no trucks” signs.

      I don’t think it’s “blaming the victim” to approve of supplying negative feedback to inattentive drivers. I think it’s pragmatic.

  55. I disagree, primarily because I intend no mockery, and I’ll explicitly acknowledge that even the best drivers can be inattentive at times.

    In that case, I have no argument with you :) Well, other than perhaps to whine “you shoulda been clearer” [aka: I shoulda read you more clearly, and assumed less].

    I guess it’s just something we’re not going to agree on: you feel that a tree is worth a collision a week, and so is a covered-over roadbed. I think that’s an illogical, emotional point of view, but then, I have plenty of similar viewpoints that I couldn’t defend logically.

    For example, I illogically, emotionally feel that it’s wrong to kill anyone old enough to own more than two doileys, even though there are many very good economic and sartorial reasons for doing so.

  56. Sometimes these trucks are built with a low profile tire and the measurement is changed when standard profile tires are installed. the height stickers don’t get changed. Low hanging tree limbs do more damage overall than low underpasses.I made good money repairing box trucks 10 years ago.this is a job that won’t be shipped to China or India.

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