Examine turnpike safety

The tragic incident at the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Fort Littleton toll plaza east of Breezewood Sunday morning will spark a review of security over the entire toll road system.

There can be no doubt that such an examination is necessary.

But beyond that is the obvious message to other states that they, too, should take note of what happened here and re-evaluate their own security procedures and other precautions.

This incident wasn’t just local news. Reports of Sunday’s crime, in which a former state trooper killed a toll booth worker and security contractor as part of an apparent robbery scheme, will be reported in newspapers and on newscasts across the country.

The incident, although isolated, could have the effect of putting ideas into the minds of those who never before might have considered such a source of ill-begotten “income.”

For those people who might consider such an observation nonsense, there are numerous examples of where one brazen crime planted a seed for others – including what happened soon after the first airplane hijacking decades ago.

While it is to be hoped that turnpike toll collectors will be safer at work going forward because of new safety measures likely to be implemented, there might be individuals someday willing to test that security nonetheless.

Sunday opened the unwanted doorway to a new challenge that turnpike officials probably had not envisioned because of what had been deemed as an effective security system already in place.

It’s too early to anticipate the eventual monetary cost of that challenge, but the hoped-for solution isn’t likely to come cheaply.

However, money isn’t the most important issue now; it’s keeping these workers who deal with money safe.

Until a day when E-ZPass or a similar no-cash toll-collection system is used by all motorists traveling toll highways, humans will be needed to work at the interchanges.

Even on toll highways where motorists are required to drop quarters into a toll-collection device when they are entering or leaving a certain stretch of roadway, someone must visit those unmanned collection stations to retrieve the money deposited in them.

What prompted retired Trooper Clarence Briggs to attempt a crime on the toll road that he formerly patrolled might or might not ever be fully ascertained.

However, whatever that explanation won’t ease the pain and sorrow of the turnpike family and the state police, both of whom work hand in hand to try to ensure the safety and convenience of the traveling public as well as commercial vehicle operators.

For the family members of 55-year-old Danny Crouse, the toll booth operator at work on Sunday who lost his life along with a 71-year-old contracted security guard, the possibility of such a tragic end probably never entered their minds. It was only three months ago that Crouse began working for the turnpike – a good job offering financial security until retirement.

That was not to be because of Briggs, who died soon after in a gun battle with an on-duty state trooper.

No doubt some states beyond Pennsylvania already are asking themselves whether their toll-collection systems really are as secure as they might have thought.