On April 29, 2012, there was a tragic fatal car accident on the Bronx River Parkway southbound near the Bronx Zoo exit. 45 year old Maria Gonzalez was driving a 2004 Honda Pilot with her 85 year old father, Jacob Nunez, 81 year old mother, Anna Julia Martinez, 9 year old daughter, Jazlyn Gonzalez, 39 year old sister, Maria Nunez, and two nieces, Naily, age 7, and Marlyn, age 3, passengers in the car when she lost control of the Honda, struck the center median, went across three lanes of travel, and vaulted over a 4 foot high guardrail on the right border of the road, falling 60 feet to the southwest grounds of the Bronx Zoo. All seven occupants of the car were killed by blunt force trauma, as determined by the New York City Medical Examiner.
This section of the Bronx River Parkway appears particularly hazardous, if not statistically so, with narrow lanes, no shoulder, no breakdown lanes, and curvy roadway configuration. The Parkway was constructed in 1940 when cars were certainly much shorter, lighter, and slower. Investigation by the local authorities has apparently determined that at the time of the accident, the vehicle was travelling at approximately 68 miles per hour. The speed limit is 50 m.p.h, although vehicles rarely travel at the speed limit on that roadway.
Back in June of 2012, there was a similar accident on the northbound side of the Bronx River Parkway in the same location, in which a driver lost control of his SUV, struck the divider, crossed two lanes and went over the guardrail, falling twenty feet and landing on a pickup truck in a parking lot. However, in that accident, the driver and passenger both survived the crash.
The New York State Department of Transportation has announced that they will immediately begin construction of concrete barriers along the outside lanes of travel in three locations near the southern border of the Parkway. Additionally, workers will install signs and striping in the area of the accident, which will now be deemed a construction zone, with a speed limit of 35 m.p.h. If a driver is convicted of speeding in a construction zone, fines can be doubled and points are increased dramatically, potentially leading to a license suspension.
Interestingly, NYS Department of Transportation statistics show that fatal motor vehicle accidents were at a hundred year low in 2011, with 243 fatalities, of which 161 were pedestrians or bicyclists. Conversely, in the State of North Carolina, which has a similar population to New York City, there are typically approximately 1,300 traffic deaths annually. The national average for motor vehicle fatalities in 2010 per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data was 1.11 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, whereas the fatality average in New York urban areas is 0.64 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.
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