Broward County and the Florida Department of Transport(FDOT) are killing people. They are not doing this knowingly but through their combined incompetent engineers they are knowingly not installing guardrails on the streets and highways of South Florida.
There is no secret to where to place a guardrail. The Florida DOT has rules and guidelines for just that. There is a rule that says that a guardrail must be installed if a roadway is near a canal. They even have specifications as to the length of this guardrail and how high it should be. But, with all of these rules, they have not applied them and people have died.
You heard it so many times: A car has driven into a canal in Coral Springs or other parts of Broward County It seems that fatalities caused by cars driving into canals are right up their with Red Light Runners. If they followed the Highway Safety code and their own common sense, countless lives would be saved.
This was all made apparent on the morning of June 18, 2001 at 5:00 a.m. when a car carrying two people veered into the C-14 Canal off of Coral Springs Drive south of Taravella High School. The passenger got out and swam to shore, but the driver wasn’t as lucky. As of the writing of this article they are still looking for him. How was his car allowed to fly into the canal? Simply put: No guardrails are installed before the bridge, blocking the apparent easy drive route to the canal. After examining the scene, you will conclude the same as I did, that you don’t have to be an engineer to now that a guardrail is needed. But they are there. Yes over there, more than 60 feet away from the road. You can find it in the photos. It is not blocking the vehicular access to the canal from the road, but it is there to prevent vehicles from driving on the canal bank. Obviously someone believed that protecting the canal bank was more important than saving lives. Remember, this bridge is a hundred feet or so from Taravella High School!
This is the only canal where guardrails don’t exist. We took a little drive to the other bridges crossing the C-14 Canal. Coral Ridge Drive has guardrails but they do not block a straight path to the canal.
At University Drive and the C-14, not only is there no guardrail at the bridge, but the pavement is lowered to allow easy access for a car. Driving into the canal at this bridge is easy. Click on the movie (C-14 and University Drive) and see for yourself. As you can see, it would be easy for anyone accidentally driving into the canal. If you look carefully, you will see that there is a guardrail. However, it is more than 75 feet away and is protecting nothing!
Notice the last photo showing a guardrail at a small canal located north of Riverside Drive and Atlantic, a few hundred feet from the C-14 Canal. This small canal has a protective guardrail, even though it is less of a hazard than the large unprotected canal further south.
I traveled on University drive and found little rhyme or reason as to how guardrails are placed. Sometimes the guardrail is on the wrong side of the canal protecting motorists from driving into the canal in reverse. There are other instances where there are no guardrails at all or ones that are installed far from the roadway offering no protection to any motorist.
What could possibly be the logic involved in not placing guardrails at bridges? Even more appalling is to think that the engineers involved in the safety of our streets actually sleep well at night. Think of the ramifications of their poor decisions. A life is lost. They could have prevented the death of another human being, but for some reason they elected it wasn’t an important enough of an issue. As in the case of Red-Light Runners, perhaps Broward County and the Florida Department of Transportation are not interested in protecting the lives of its citizens.
We tried to track down which government authority is responsible for guardrails. We spoke to Mr. Ives at the Broward County Streets and Highway Division. He claimed that the Canals in Coral Springs are either the City of Coral Springs responsibility or, in the case of the C-14 canal, it is South Florida Water Management. It turns out that he gave me false information. After we called the South Florida Water Management District head office they clearly said that the responsibility either lies with the City, the County or the FDOT. They are responsible for the maintenance and installation of the guardrails around the C-14 canals.
So, we called the City of Coral Springs Roads department. “It is not our responsibility ” they said shifting the onus on Broward County. They read directly out of page 44 of Broward County’s Streets and Highways division is to repair and erect guardrails. We call the FDOT public relations office in Broward and they clearly stated what we suspected: On city streets, the City is responsible for guardrails. On County streets, the county is responsible, and finally on the Turnpike and Interstate major highways, the Florida Department of Transport is responsible. How about this: As a citizen that pays taxes for services, you three are all responsible. Especially when some dies. The reason there is no guardrail at this bridge is because Broward County didn’t put it there. Broward County Streets and Highway Department is negligent, and who ever makes the decisions should be held accountable. You know the Engineers in their department are going to say: “We only put up guardrails when there are at least 3 deaths in 12 month period…….”
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) site had numerous references to guardrail designs. There is a specification for the design of guardrails at bridges. As a matter of fact, the Florida Department of Highway Safety has specific design requirements that are not being met by Broward County. We also noticed that the FDOT is not even following their own guardrail standards on the turnpikes and major highways such as the Sawgrass Expressway and the I-595. Click here for the enlarged view of the FDOT design drawing for guardrails to be located at bridges.
Are Guardrails Dangerous?
The typical excuse you might hear is that the reason guardrails are not installed is because they are dangerous. Yes, poorly installed guardrails are sometimes more dangerous than not having any. However, there are standards for guardrails that are not being followed by Broward County even when they finally install them. The guardrail termination must be rolled into the ground so that no sharp end can be exposed to on oncoming vehicle. There are also lengths of rails that must be respected given the speed limit on a particular roadway. There is a whole website called Citizens for Roadside Safety (click here) which has information as to the use of guardrails and the dangers of poorly installed ones. What was also interesting is the successful lawsuits brought against these government organizations by people who fell victim to their inactions.
There is no logic when it comes to bad design, and there is no excuse in 2001 that can justify the fact that our canals are dangerously exposed waterways that place our lives at risk. Since we are at the mercy of engineers, maybe they can tell us why guardrails are not installed where they should be.
COMING SOON: OUR DANGEROUS ROADWAYS