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If you drive down Highway 163 or Interstate 5 in San Diego and glance skyward, you’ll see lots of pedestrian bridges with fences. Look closely and you might notice something unusual: the fences are quite high, sometimes well over six feet.
Why are the fences so tall? Because people kept hurtling rocks and blocks of concrete over the railings, injuring drivers below.
Longtime residents may remember the most horrific case, when two boys threw a six-pound concrete block from an I-5 overpass onto the windshield of a Corvette in 1988.
The impact fractured a passenger’s skull, sent him into a months-long coma and ended his career as an actor and model. Other motorists were seriously injured by debris, including several in 2000.
The California Department of Transportation responded by erecting fences on several overpasses. Judging from news reports, the problem seems to have faded away.
But Caltrans hasn’t put up any fences on the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, where 236 people—and counting—have thrown themselves to their deaths. The railing is still just three feet tall.
I wrote about this topic last week in a series of stories:
- Suicide Magnet: The Problem
- Suicide Magnet: No Barrier to Despair
- The Survivor: Right Place, Wrong Time
- The New Media: See No Suicide
- The Personal Story: Death from Above
- The Impact: Ravaged Bodies
- The Cop: Jumper Control
Should Caltrans, which runs the Coronado Bridge, worry about falling people as much as it did about falling rocks? Or are these two entirely different situations?
Officials in other cities—including Seattle and San Francisco—are taking action regarding their own “suicide bridges.” Near Santa Barbara, Caltrans is paying $1 million to install fences on a bridge that accounts for an average of one suicide a year.
If someone should step in and start raising a fuss about the Coronado Bridge’s death toll, who should it be? San Diego? Coronado? Local shrinks? And why hasn’t anyone given much thought to this problem for more than 20 years?
Send in your thoughts and theories along with any questions you may have about this issue. I’ll answer your queries over the next day.
— RANDY DOTINGA