Overpasses and roundabouts seem to be in the local headlines more often these days.
The most common denominator that should surround both, for their users and their planners, clearly should be enhanced safety. Sometimes, a reminder of that seems necessary.
A railroad overpass in Opelika with a history of problems – providing only a narrow, low, highway passage under it – is on Marvyn Parkway near Williamson Avenue. The latest incident occurred on Aug. 22 when a tractor-trailer rig too tall for the overpass struck it while trying to drive under it.
The truck and trailer were separated, with the trailer overturned and left sitting on its side and blocking traffic. Fortunately the driver was uninjured. Norfolk Southern railroad officials were summoned to inspect the bridge.
An overpass accident of a different kind occurred this week in Opelika, when a Nissan pickup truck somehow jumped the railing of an overpass bridge on Interstate 85 and crashed below, upside down on Long Street. The driver was seriously injured and airlifted to a regional hospital, and officials were left baffled in trying to figure out what caused the accident.
Roundabouts, meanwhile, seem to be the new trend in highway planning, as state and local officials alike find them much cheaper than installing signal lights, claim they are safer, and many drivers seem to prefer them because of a more steady flow of traffic instead of a stop-and-wait.
Opelika has openly embraced the use of roundabouts, with the most notable addition of late being one constructed at Tiger Town.
Auburn drivers also will see more of them, with plans for a roundabout to be constructed in 2019 at the busy link of Wire Road with Cox Road. The city and state are joining efforts on that project, with most of the funding coming from the state.
Drivers need to be aware of these changes and conditions, and it is up to them to become familiar with the rules of the road and the threats that sometimes arise.
Be alert to overpasses that are low and narrow, and drive defensively as you approach, meaning be prepared to give room to oncoming traffic and avoid driving high-rise vehicles such as RVs under overpasses without first checking the height restrictions.
Roundabout users should approach such junctions with courtesy and a careful eye in yielding to vehicles already inside the loop and on the move. Roundabouts are not designed to mimic a NASCAR race track, but more so to make your driving more convenient and safe if properly used.
Please drive safely and stay away from the recent spate of similar headlines.
Many accidents can be avoided if drivers will remember these simple rules.