The recent tragedy of the Bronx River Parkway accident, which claimed the lives of seven members of the Nuñez family, shows how the failure to maintain and modernize our roadways has a terrible cost in human life.
Many of our roadways in New York City were originally designed and constructed nearly a century ago. They were designed for slower traffic and fewer cars. Some roadways, notably the Bronx River Parkway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway (a/k/a the Interboro) and the Belt Parkway have a reputation for frequent, and fatal accidents. They have some dangerous elements in common: narrow lanes, curves and hills, dangerous entrance and exit ramp design and inadequate, unsafe guardrails and medians.
In this particular Bronx River Parkway accident the Nuñez family’s SUV hit the too-short, poorly-placed curb on the side of the highway, which catapulted the vehicle 60 feet off of the elevated road down into the Bronx Zoo below, claiming the lives of all seven passengers on Sunday, April 28, 2012.
Why did the Bronx River Parkway accident happen?
A combination of deadly factors contributed to the tragic Bronx River Parkway accident, which has been the scene of several previous fatal car crashes. An unsafe median between north-bound and south-bound lanes, a curb beside the roadway, an inadequate guardrail, and a dangerous approach area to an exit ramp where traffic backs-up just over a blind hill.
Robert Sinclair, spokesman for the American Automobile Association (AAA) of New York noted the role which the roadside curb played in launching the Nuñez family’s vehicle over the small four foot guardrail.
“Highways are not supposed to have curbs, and not only is there a curb there, it’s particularly high,” Sinclair said. “The guardrail would need to be higher for that area because you’re trying to keep vehicles from flying off because of the 60-foot drop.”
As a matter of public policy, New York City and the State of New York must make it a priority to address the design and construction of roadways to minimize the occurrence of fatal accidents. Following this tragic accident, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said he has been trying to get the problem addressed.
“There’s always something wrong with the roadway, and we need to repair that,” Diaz said.
Resulting Personal Injury Lawsuits May Become a Catalyst For Change
Lawsuits demanding money damages on behalf of surviving family members not only seek justice for the loss of loved ones but make New York City and State take notice of dangerous conditions and will hopefully cause them to act to fix their deadly roadways.
While they may be taking more notice, the question is when they will take action. In delaying the repair of these roadways, the City and State are making a decision that there is somewhere more important to spend their resources.
What could be more important than ensuring that a similar accident won’t happen again? It’s possible that that money is spent beautifying a pedestrian mall in mid-town, instead of fixing a dangerous roadway in the Bronx. Currently that deadly area where this Bronx River Parkway accident happened is not scheduled to be fixed until 2026.
Sometimes, it takes a tragedy, and the threat of an outraged jury awarding tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits and damages, to get New York City or the State to re-examine their priorities.*Written by Bart Mitchell, New York City accident attorney at Carro, Carro and Mitchell LLC.