CORAOPOLIS (KDKA) — In the heart of the morning rush, a trucker entered the northbound S-bend on I-79 approaching Coraopolis. In the sharp bend to the left, the truck tipped, left the ground on one side and settled onto the roadway blocking both northbound lanes.
“We average about 35 crashes a year through the ‘S’ bends in both directions,” says PennDOT District 11 Traffic Engineer Todd Kravits. “About six of those per year involve trucks and about half of those involve rollover-type crashes.”
Truckers know the perils of the S-bends all to well.
“You gotta be careful, especially when you are loaded with this,” says trucker Raymond Beaubre out of Quebec.
And, Arshbreed Mann, from Toronto, adds, “That’s, kind of, way to curvy for drivers.”
James Gravely, out of Morganville, Virginia, says the truck will let you know how tight the curves are.
“When the weight shifts on the truck, you can feel the truck, it just leans, I don’t like ’em,” Gravely said.
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Kravits says in the majority of the trucking accidents, “It’s an issue with vehicles not traveling the posted speed limit.”
Andy Tyree, of Martinsville, Virginia, says the 45 mile per hour speed limit signs for trucks could not be more obvious, “If you run the speed limit posted, you’ll be okay on it.”
Beaubre agrees, “With trucks, you better believe it, you better hold it, and if you don’t? You might either hit the ditch or tip over.”
Despite that awareness, our KDKA radar gun on Monday found that most trucks rolling into the S-bends at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. PennDOT says reconstruction would be incredibly expensive and not necessarily solve all the problems.
Kravits says, “We may be initiating a study shortly to see if its possible for us to straighten out the road, but based on the terrain of the roadway itself, there’s always going to be a curve in the road.”
But, in just a few weeks construction will begin on a new high-tech alert system, with new electronic signs and computers that will measure speed and determine the type of vehicle.
“If it detects a truck traveling 55 miles per hour, it’s going to send out a warning that will be posted on signs along the roadway, as well as overhead, that’s going to say ‘Slow. Potential for rollover crash,'” Kravits said.
The system will take about six months to get up and operating, and when completed, will leave little doubt when a vehicle is heading for trouble.
Kravits says, “We can’t engineer for the human behavioral factors. If we can just make drivers more aware of what they are going through, those S-bends, slowing down, driving at the posted speed limit, we hope to reduce those accidents substantially,”
The new warning system should be operational in March of next year.