As the investigation continues into what caused Sunday's deadly accident at the Bronx Zoo, the New York City affiliate of AAA (known as Triple A) gave their official opinion on the inadequacy of the guardrails where the crash occurred. AAA stated that the section of the Bronx River Parkway where a minivan flew off the overpass Sunday afternoon, killing all seven inside, is woefully outdated, and has "narrow lanes, steep hills, tight turns, inadequate guardrails and no breakdown lane." The four-foot high guardrails are ridiculous for the elevated parkway's current use as a fast-paced highway for commuters. AAA New York City spokesman Robert Sinclair explained that the parkway "lacks modern transportation engineering features."
He went on to explain that the parkway was conceived in 1907 and opened in 1925. Three sections of the parkway in Bronx County are on the New York State Transportation Department's "5 Percent List," which is a federally mandated list of locations "exhibiting the most severe highway safety needs." One of these sections is confirmed to be at or near the location of Sunday's crash as well as a June 2011 accident where a car flew off the same section of overpass. The fact that such a heavily used parkway has not been updated to meet the needs of tri-state area residents and tourists is completely unacceptable. Additionally, it is now confirmed that after driver Maria Gonzalez clipped the median and damaged her tire, she hit a concrete curb, which is what ultimately caused the van to go airborne and fly over the too-small guardrail onto the Bronx Zoo property. That curb should not have been there according to Sinclair, who stated, "It is very strange that there is a curb there. You don't put curbs on high-speed roadways because they can serve as launching pads, which appears to be what happened here. A big Honda Pilot flew over a 4-foot guardrail."
Gonzalez was driving at 68 miles per hour in a 50-mile zone, so while she was definitely speeding, New York Police Department officials admitted through spokesman Paul Browne that speeding is very common on the Bronx River Parkway and she was likely just keeping up with the flow of traffic. The lack of enforcement of the speed limit combined with incredibly unsafe conditions resulted in the death of seven members of a single family, all of whom were wearing seatbelts. If the family wants to sue, they certainly have a case. Toxicology reports are pending, but there is no evidence that Gonzalez was intoxicated, texting or on the phone. There is also no evidence of a mechanical failure.
Understandably, Juan Gonzalez, the husband of the driver, is at least partially blaming the state for the loss of his wife, daughter, sister-in-law, two young nieces and his wife's parents. A relative translated his Spanish for the press, and relayed, "He says it's very careless of the state to let that happen. There's been several incidents before this. Accidents such as this and they haven't done anything to prevent this." It's horrible to think that this accident may not be the last. The response from the New York Department of Transportation was a simple e-mail message from a spokesperson, "We are working closely with all agencies involved to determine the cause of this tragic accident."
The Bronx River Parkway runs north-south between the south Bronx and central Westchester County. Autopsies confirmed that all seven victims died of blunt force trauma.