Two places for regular vehicle accidents: The Snake on Mulholland Drive, short underpass in Durham

I ran across stories recently about two areas that experience numerous vehicle accidents. Not just a few but dozens of accidents over several years. Here they are:

1. A short underpass, eleven feet eight inches, in Durham, North Carolina takes off the tops of a number of trucks. Watch here:

Though authorities have made efforts to prevent vehicles from running into the low-ceilinged bridge – which as blinking lights and multiple signs warn, has a clearance of only 11 feet and 8 inches – the demonic structure continues to ruin the days of incautious drivers. “After a 5-month ‘dry spell,’ the Gregson St canopener got hungry again in November and December,” reports the bridge’s devoted biographer, Jürgen Henn…

Note the counter at bottom – that last collision marked at least 67 violent impacts since 2008 at this miserable crossing. As to why nobody’s fixed the wretched thing, as explained before 1) a sewer main right underneath is blocking the lowering of the road 2) the railroad company that maintains the bridge has installed a crash beam, so the problem is covered from its end 3) the city has put up signs about the low clearance as far back as three blocks, so it’s covered from its end.

2. The Snake is at one end of famous Mulholland Drive, known for its views of Los Angeles. Motorcycles, in particular, seem to have a lot of problems:

On any given Sunday, The Snake is overrun by drivers and motorcyclists. They’ve been hitting this spot 30 miles northwest of Hollywood for decades, but it became a hot destination in the 1960s when Steve McQueen started blasting through Mulholland on his Triumph. The road’s popularity grew over the years, and even an aggressive crackdown on speeding and a temporary shuttering of the road in the 1990s did little to slow the The Snake’s popularity. These days it isn’t uncommon to see celebrities like Jay Leno motoring through in six-figure cars. But it’s the motorcyclists you’ll see most often…

Bennett says Edwards Corner is not a tough one. It’s an uphill bend with a constant radius and positive camber, meaning the road’s angle is steady and the surface is tilted inward. The riders who go down tend to hit the corner way too fast, realize they’re in over their heads, fixate on the guard rail, and slam right into it. Just as often, though, riders get too greedy with the throttle on the way out, causing the rear end to slide. Beginners and squids tend to jump off the throttle or lay on the brakes, causing the bike to go wide and forge a trail into the hillside. The skilled riders come down from speed before the turn, lean in, and roll on the gas after the apex — keeping their eyes on the exit the entire time…

Snyder’s videos show exactly how, in excruciating detail. A playlist of 79 clips shows every type of rider imaginable making every type of mistake imaginable. Lowsides on Harleys, highsides on Ducatis, and the occasional car crash. But through it all, there’s an air of camaraderie, with riders helping each other pull bikes from ditches as others slow incoming traffic and even sweep up dirt and debris to prevent another crash.

I spent 20 minutes or so the other watching a number of these 79 clips. Remarkably, most of the people in the accidents were able to walk away, even in the 2013 crash where a motorcyclist hit two cyclists.

In both cases, it sounds like drivers should be well aware of the dangers. In the case of the underpass, there are plenty of signs – though it is unclear how many drivers heed signs. In the case of The Snake, it looks like there are often people standing around, indicating something to pay attention to – though this might lead to trying to show off. Perhaps officials only have two means of recourse: (1) completely rebuild these sections or (2) close these sections all together if rebuilding is not possible.

Another remarkable piece of this: there are people willing to videotape all of these crashes and then make them available online.

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