As many of our Fayetteville readers might recall, a tragic chain of events on a Florida highway on Jan. 29 claimed the lives of 11 people. While the Florida Highway Patrol continues to investigate the incident, other highway agencies including the North Carolina Highway Patrol may consider reviewing policies regarding when to keep highways closed or open. Trucking companies may also want to consider making sure that policies address the appropriate actions drivers should take when they come across dangerous road conditions in order to prevent serious or fatal truck accidents.
Low-lying fog on a highway is dangerous, but when smoke from a fire is added, the results can be fatal. Last month, the highway patrol in Florida had closed I-75 because of a fire nearby, but decided to re-open the highway a few hours later. Forty-five minutes after re-opening the highway, calls started coming in to 911.
A man and his friend were on the way home when they ran into the wall of smoke and fog. They stopped because they could not see, but heard other cars crashing. A woman traveling with her friend ran into the wall of smoke and fog, and then slowed down. The driver said that she couldn’t see anything. Suddenly, she hit the back of a pickup truck that had already hit the back of a semi truck.
Two vans filled of church-goers were traveling north on the highway when they hit the wall of smoke and fog. One van hit the back of a semi-trailer that had stopped on the highway. Five family members in the van died. Everyone in the second van survived. A Toyota Matrix was crushed between the cab and rear of another semi-truck. That driver and his girlfriend were killed. A husband, wife and daughter were southbound in the area. They crashed into the back of a semi that had also stopped in the middle of the roadway. The vehicles caught fire and the family was killed.
The highway patrol is investigating the crashes and trying to see what could have been done differently to avoid the accidents. Should the FHP have re-opened the highway as soon as it did when fog and smoke was still affecting visibility? Why were the two tractor trailers stopped on the road instead of being pulled off to the side of the highway? According to the agency, it could take months before the investigation is complete and the victims’ families and others receive some answers.
Source: Ocala.com, “Anatomy of a tragedy: I-75 crashes,” Cindy Swirko, Feb. 4, 2012