Admittedly, the recent “horror story” where three accidents combined to create a “perfect storm” of closed and clogged traffic on the turnpike is an extreme situation unlikely to repeat, it nonetheless raises a bona fide question with regard to how to protect motorists from these situations. There needs to be some way to alert motorists of traffic delays early enough that they can avoid them. Without that, a delay “mushrooms” as more and more unsuspecting motorists line up behind the problem. How do we fix this?
Technology is probably the answer. One possible answer is to use signs with flashing lights that indicate a certain radio frequency should be used to get information on traffic problems ahead when the light is flashing. We already have similar signs (without the flashing light) to give travelers information of local interest as they drive along. Why couldn’t a system of radio/sign alerts be installed at appropriate locations on major roads to “get the word out” that motorists should avoid the problems ahead?
Another answer is the telephone. Most utilities have a pre-recorded message so that when you phone the company it gives you information about a power outage, cable problems etc before transferring you to the menu. Could the turnpike have such a system and publize the number to call? Could the Department of Highways or the State Police construct a system to do this? I suspect it can be done at relatively little expense. With this, posting a few signs giving out the “traffic check” number would shift the “burden” of avoiding the problem to the public. All officials would need to do is immediately post a clear and concise statement of the problem and update that message appropriately. Probably not too much to ask and a good way to inform hundreds of people of a problem.
Naturally, more coordinated responses on the ground need to be addressed but I suspect that smart use of existing technology can produce a very real improvement in our state (and elsewhere for that matter) with regard to not inconveniencing motorists when accidents and other delays occur.