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Lessons of the Can Opener

You’ve probably heard about the Can Opener, Durham’s famous underpass that has shaved the top from countless trucks and trailers. But if you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered why, after all the improvements in highway safety and warning systems, trucks keep smashing into the bridge.

It’s not like drivers aren’t warned. There are signs, including one that flashes “OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN.” So why do drivers keep crashing into the bridge?

To answer that question, 9th Street Journal reporter Carmela Guaglianone watched videos of every crash – all 162 – that have been archived on the YouTube channel of Jurgen Henn, an enterprising Duke IT manager with a unique view of the mayhem. As she watched the videos in cafes around town, Guaglianone quickly became an expert on the Can Opener and the mistakes drivers make.

Her report is a revealing look at an unlikely Durham landmark, the cognitive workload of drivers and the sounds that can be heard when metal hits metal.

Photo montage at top: Six of the 162 videos we watched from Copyright Jürgen Henn –