Wednesday, May 16, 2007; A14
The Bay Bridge accident is an example of our federal government's lack of oversight. I traveled to Washington more than 3 1/2 years ago and spoke to officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with the help of my congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). I passionately encouraged NHTSA officials to take action on utility trailers.
Several problems imperil public safety. The outdated federal guideline that deals with lighting standards, which has not been updated since 1969, does not require working taillights, inspections, and training on how to tow and how to avoid hitching problems.
The guideline permits anybody to build a homemade trailer. It provides oversight only on utility trailers weighing more than 3,000 pounds. By producing a trailer that is 2,999 pounds, a company can avoid federal oversight.
On average, 450 people are killed a year in accidents involving utility trailers. NHTSA should do something about this immediately.
RON J. MELANCON
Glen Allen, Va.
Any bad accident demands action to help prevent a repeat, and last week's Chesapeake Bay Bridge accident was surely bad [Metro, May 11]. While fault must be investigated and assessed, it is more important to take steps to make the bridge safer, especially as traffic picks up for summer. The following steps should be taken on the westbound span when it is carrying eastbound traffic.
Immediately, the eastbound lane of the westbound span should be limited to two-axle passenger vehicles. Trucks, vehicles towing trailers and others should be restricted to the right lane on the eastbound span. Law enforcement agencies should promote and enforce safe distances between all vehicles, especially in that lane.
In the midterm, traffic safety officials should use various tools (such as electronic pacing and sensors to keep adequate space between vehicles) to get vehicles to proceed more slowly and maintain safe stopping distances.
In the longer term, the state of Maryland should either install barriers between eastbound and westbound traffic on the westbound span or develop alternatives that will allow both spans to carry traffic in only one direction.
When are transportation safety officials going to put speed cameras on the Bay Bridge?
In the 35 years my family has been driving to the beach, we have watched, with increasing dismay, as drivers around us have sped ever faster than the clearly marked 50 mph. They also increasingly ignore the fact that the middle line is a double one. The time for action is long past.