He was big. He was tough. He was scared to death. "He was riding his Harley and when it was time to cross the bridge he just couldn't do it," said Sgt. Jeffery Cook of the Delaware River & Bay Authority Police. "A lot of people are afraid of heights. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do."
The psychiatric term for an abnormal fear of heights is acrophobia and, about 400 times a year, people afflicted with it ask DRBA Troop 1 officers to help them cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
"The acrophobic driving service is not a burden to the authority's police but rather a good public service which reduces the possibility of an accident occurring on the bridge," McCarnan said. "It is something the department has done since day one and will continue to offer the traveling public."
Bridge police say they understand why some people panic when they start to drive over the Delaware Memorial. It is, after all, an awesome piece of work. On a clear day, it is visible from 15 miles away. When it opened Aug. 16, 1951, its 440-foot towers made it the third-highest spot in Delaware. At its highest point, the roadway is 200 feet above the Delaware River, and the structure still ranks as the longest twin suspension bridge in the world, according to the World Book Encyclopedia, the University of Delaware and other sources.
But that number is growing. In 1998, bridge police escorted 233 people from one side of the river to the other. For the past couple of years, that number has hovered around 400.
We've seen people get halfway across the bridge in their cars and suddenly just freeze," he said. "That's dangerous for them, for us and for everyone around them."
It's especially dangerous on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Cook said, because it has no breakdown lane.
Additionally, he said, the bridge's crown - the hump in the middle - is so high that if a vehicle is stopped just over the top, approaching cars can't see it until it is almost too late.
Delaware Memorial Bridge online: