Editorial: Don't punish village, bridge for drivers who ignore warnings

  • The top of a box truck slammed into Long Grove's covered bridge on Monday. Lake County sheriff's police say 13 similar collisions with the bridge have occurred since August.

    The top of a box truck slammed into Long Grove's covered bridge on Monday. Lake County sheriff's police say 13 similar collisions with the bridge have occurred since August. Courtesy of Jeffery Taylor

 
Posted2/4/2021 1:00 AM

The phalanx of bright yellow warning signs leading to the entry of the historic covered bridge on Robert Parker Coffin Road in Long Grove is a sight to behold.

Two hundred feet ahead of the bridge, a large yellow quadrangle blares "8'6"" between thick up and down arrows.

 

"TRUCKS MUST TURN" orders another just a few feet ahead, with a large black arrow pointing left. Just above it is a sign declaring a weight limit of 5 tons and just below it another vowing "NO TRUCK OR BUSES $500 FINE."

And as if that's not enough, another large yellow quadrangle with 8'6" between thick up and down arrows is stuck prominently in the middle of the bridge cover.

To resist commentary on the intelligence, arrogance or, at least, vision impairment of anyone who would drive a bus or truck through this corridor takes immense will power. We'll do our best. But how otherwise to assess the fact that Lake County sheriff's police have had at least 13 reports of vehicles crashing into the bridge since it reopened in August? The latest happened on a bright sunny afternoon Monday as a driver blithely plowed his box truck into the bridge cover as people on the scene screamed and waved their arms for him to stop.

Some of us, we must admit, are beginning to hear the term "attractive nuisance" rumbling around in our heads as we contemplate the nature of this problem. But, while it's true the bridge is attractive -- that's its appeal, after all, and the reason for its designation on the National Register of Historic Places -- it's not the span's appearance that is attracting these drivers but more likely its location. The bridge over Buffalo Creek provides a short cut through Historic Downtown Long Grove between Illinois state highways 53 and 83.

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The possibility is not lost on us that drivers' GPS programs may be leading them through the village to take advantage of the short cut, and we can certainly understand the temptation. But there are all those signs, not to mention the rank injustice of suggesting blame on local officials.

Long Grove is a quaint suburban village, with a charming, nostalgic appeal on which it builds much of its reputation and its financial well-being. Surely, the town ought not have to redesign or remove one of its chief assets because hurried truck and bus drivers refuse to heed abundant warnings of the risk and fines ahead.

It certainly sounds like the village and highway safety officials need to continue to look for ways to direct truck traffic away from the bridge, and we encourage whatever reasonable measures can be taken to that end. In the meantime, we can't escape a deep sense of resentment that a local treasure is being repeatedly battered because of the inability or refusal of some drivers to obey warnings practically raining across their field of vision. We won't go so far as to claim these drivers are too dumb or too arrogant to drive, but, truly, we wouldn't be offended if, in addition to assessing financial costs, one condition for letting them keep a driver's license were a requirement to have their eyes examined.

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