Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dec. 10: Improve Drawbridge Safety In Florida

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Someone interviewed on WPLG-Channel 10 Tuesday had a good suggestion for drawbridges: Crosswalks, with "Walk-Don't Walk" signs when a bridge is going up.

It's possible that such electronic signs might have saved the life of 80-year-old Desmond Nolan, who fell to his death last month when the Sheridan Street bridge in Hollywood, Florida went up. Nolan, who was wearing headphones, may not have heard warning bells. Nolan's family has sued bridge tender Michael O'Rourke and the companies that oversee the bridge tending for negligence; the family says O'Rourke did not take needed precautions to make sure Nolan was safe.

We all know about the cat-and-mouse games cars often play to get across a bridge before the gates go down. But the danger is just as big for pedestrians and bicyclists. And it is more dangerous if, for example, a pedestrian has a handicap.

In Delray Beach, the bridge that crosses Linton Boulevard between A1A and the mainland has a sign warning motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians of the times the bridge goes up. That and crosswalk signs should be the first things on the list for Florida's Department of Transportation, which operates many drawbridges, to review.

The second should be the training bridge tenders receive. They are up there to be the eyes and ears for those in the water and those on the bridge. They need to keep those eyes and ears open at all times.

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