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Articles Posted in Public Entity Liability

Southbound Highway 5 Regrinding
Southbound Highway 5 Evidence Gone

While you were sleeping the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was out regrinding sections of Southbound Highway 5.  This is the area of highway that has seen too many traffic accidents lately. Especially, during wet and rainy weather. One of those accidents included a tragic fatality of an innocent Elk Grove man. This, when a Federal Express truck lost control of his big rig and crashed through the center divider and into oncoming traffic. This accident happened on December 10, 2015.  On December 21, 2015 a similar accident happened. In that incident, no one lost their life. But again, the truck driver lost control of his vehicle along the same stretch of treacherous highway.

Caltrans Regrinding 

One of the important factors in any personal injury claim is determine “liability,” or responsibility for the injury. Typically, personal injury claims will involve situations in which one person was negligent, and that negligence establishes that person’s liability for the injuries caused to other people in the incident. Often, that negligence is crystal clear. If one car is stopped waiting at a red light and is suddenly rear-ended by a second vehicle, the driver of that second vehicle will almost always be the person found “negligent” or “at fault” for causing the collision.

header3But this isn’t always the case. Imagine, for example, a driver preparing to enter a roadway from a parking lot — there appears to be an opening in traffic for him to safely enter, but as he drives forward he collides with another vehicle that was speeding down the road. In this situation, the driver entering the road should have taken more time to observe traffic to be certain it was safe to move forward, but the speeding driver should also have been operating his vehicle within the speed limit.

Or consider a pedestrian in rainy weather who is running toward a store entrance to get out of the rain. Unfortunately, the store’s employees forgot to put out rainmats at the entrance that day, so the pedestrian reaches the wet, slippery walkway and suddenly falls and is injured. The employees obviously forgot an important safety device, but the pedestrian herself probably shouldn’t have been running in conditions where the walkway could forseeably be especially slippery.rain

Beware of Shoulder Edge Drop Off
Beware of Shoulder Edge Drop Off

I would like to warn you of the dangers of our highway shoulders. These highway shoulders are more commonly referred to as “pavement edge drop off” by the Federal Highway Administration. Information contained in California State design and maintenance standards reveal that the paved edge/shoulder of any given roadway should be built and maintained in a flat (flush) manner with its adjacent unpaved shoulder. A dangerous shoulder edge drop generally results from improper road maintenance. These roadway shoulders become unsafe and dangerous when a motorist leaves the roadway and then tries to re-enter over a shoulder edge drop off. What usually occurs is that the motorist needs to increase steering in order to come back up onto the pavement edge drop off to re-enter the road he pulled off of. When the motorist is successful at mounting the pavement edge drop off, the motorist instantly finds himself back on the road with an increase in steering motion. Couple this with the high speed that is necessary to merge back onto a highway and you have a recipe for disaster in that the motorist is unable to react to the movement caused by increased steering input and the car veers off the roadway opposite the pavement edge drop off and gets seriously injured.

This is sometimes easier to watch than to explain. Here is a YouTube link to the Federal Highway Administration video regarding unsafe shoulder edge drop off. www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUm4A-s_a5M. Please watch the video for yourself and be aware of this type of dangerous roadway defect case in case it happens to you or someone you love.

Deteriorating Highway Shoulders
Deteriorating highway shoulders can cause auto accidents with personal injuries and wrongful deaths on our roadways. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says about 11,000 people get hurt and some 160 people actually die per year in motor vehicle accidents associated with dangerous pavement edges around highway shoulders of the roadway. The figures have resulted in a cost of approximately $1.2 billion.

The highway shoulder may be in a defective state if there is a dangerous drop-off zone between the roadway edge paving and the shoulder. These drop-offs are really unsafe when uneven height differences are present between road and shoulder surfaces. What sometimes happens here is vehicle stability is jeopardized and causes the driver to lose handling of the car.

Common causes of highway shoulders becoming dangerously defective may be roadway erosion and/or roadway wear and tear. This seems to be the most common cause of uneven pavement edge drop-offs. However, resurfacing performed on a roadway without including a “proper” transition in to the shoulder has also been noted as a possible factor in pavement edge defects.

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