Overheight warnings have margin of error
I was driving Kaneohe-bound on the Likelike Highway one day and, as I approached Wilson Tunnel, I noticed the overheight warning lights flashing. I figured the lights were for a large cement truck several car lengths ahead of me. I expected the worst, but the truck was able to enter and exit the tunnel with no problems. It appeared he had 3 to 6 feet of clearance. How do they detect overheight vehicles? What criteria do they use to determine if a vehicle is overheight? If a vehicle is detected as being overheight, yet passes through with plenty of clearance, is the detection system relevant anymore? Was this maybe a glitch in the system?
Answer: There was no glitch -- a margin of error is built in to the system to warn drivers that either their vehicles or loads exceed a certain limit.
Detectors and two sets of overheight warning lights are located before the entrances to the Wilson Tunnel on the Likelike Highway, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The first detector is located 1,100 feet before the tunnels, but the first set of flashing beacons and a horn is located 950 feet from the tunnels. A second detector, with a flashing beacon and horn, is located 450 feet from the tunnels.
The detectors and warning lights indicate that a vehicle or its load exceeds a height of 11 feet, 6 inches, the limit established by the Highways Division.
Tunnel height limits are set at the lowest level at which damage could occur to the tunnels or fixtures. There is a margin of error built in to account for a bouncing vehicle.
If the warning lights are triggered, a driver is supposed to turn the vehicle around in the area just before the tunnels.
For obvious reasons, damage to the tunnel ceiling could create a hazardous situation for motorists following the overheight vehicle, a Department of Transportation spokesman said.
"A commonly observed problem is that drivers of overheight vehicles who have driven through the tunnels previously without damage to their vehicles or to the tunnels, continue to drive through even though they set off the alarms," he said.
If a witnessed vehicle does cause damage to the tunnels, the Highways Division will seek compensation for repairs, he said.
If a police officer witnesses a violation, citations will be issued.
Motorists who witness such violations should contact the Honolulu Police Department with the location, date and time of the incident, and if possible, a license plate number, the name of the company or a description of the vehicle.
Citations cannot be issued unless the violation was witnessed by a police officer, but HPD will have enough information to report the incident to the appropriate company.
To the good Samaritan who called my parents after spotting our dog, Princess, who was lost for two days in Waipio Gentry. -- Rosemarie Bernardo
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