Poor visibility on Interstate 75 was the cause of a fatal car accident killing 10 early Sunday morning. Involved in this car accident were tractor trailers, passenger vehicles, and even a mobile home. A local fire was said to be the cause of the smoke. Authorities have yet to determine whether the fire was intentional as no controlled burns were scheduled in the area. Reports have painted an eerily similar picture to that of four years ago when an accident on Interstate 75 took the lives of 4. As in 2008, poor visibility was the cause of a massive pile up. Similarly, cars were burned due to the severe impact. Early yesterday morning, police arrived to a scene of charred tractor trailers and cars. Some vehicles attempted to avoid the accident by stopping short of the wreckage. Unfortunately they were unable to escape injury as approaching vehicles, unaware of the danger ahead, collided into those stopped vehicles only adding to the pile-up.
As in 2008 the smoke and fog made visibility difficult for the drivers to see the danger that was ahead. No lighting also added to Sunday’s fatal equation as it was the dark hours of the early morning. This is the second deadly accident on interstate 75 in four years totaling 14 deaths. The question posed by these two fatal accidents is:
1) Whether the state has met their duty of maintaining safe and navigable roadways and
2) Whether what they have done is enough?
The answer to this first part of the question is possibly yes. The state may have met their duty because, as a sovereign entity, the state has a very low burden in order to meet their duty of care. However, it is the second part of the question where accidents such as yesterdays should create a heightened awareness. The state could do more to ensure a safer highway for the drivers navigating its highways. Posting signs on the side of the road reading “fog ahead” or “smoke ahead” may not be enough as was the fact in 2008. Posted signs may be ineffective if posted to close to the accident scene because cars may not have enough time to react. While these signs satisfy their duty it just may not be enough. A possible solution to this problem may be to place more effective reflectors on the roads or lighting to give drivers notice of possible danger ahead. Lighting and reflectors will assist drivers approaching dense fog and smoke preventing them from “out driving their headlights.” It does not take excess speed for accidents to happen with conditions such as yesterday. However, roadside reflectors or lighting may help drivers to realize that visibility is worsening ahead. Ultimately, drivers are always responsible for their actions behind the wheel but there are some factors that are uncontrollable. Like outside conditions. Something that warnings or lighting could remedy.
Sundays, events are tragic. Hopefully this heightens the awareness of many to take adequate safety precautions on the highways. We are passionate about this topic because we had the honor of representing a fatality victim from the accident in 2008 on interstate 75. We plead that when faced with a situation such as this: safely pull over and find an area to wait until visibility improves.