Articles Posted in Weather Related Accidents

Over the past few months, Maryland has seen an unusual amount of rain. This weather, aside from ruining summer plans, also creates a hazard for Maryland motorists. Wet roads create numerous difficulties for motorists, most of which can be avoided by slowing down and paying close attention to the road conditions. One of the most common causes of Maryland traffic accidents during a rainstorm is hydroplaning.

Rainy CommuteHydroplaning occurs when a vehicle travels not on the surface of the roadway as it would in dry conditions, but instead on a thin layer of water on top of the road’s surface. In order for a vehicle to hydroplane, there only needs to be a tiny amount of water on the roadway. Thus, most hydroplaning accidents occur within the first ten minutes of a rainstorm, when the road doesn’t necessarily look slippery to motorists.

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of a vehicle hydroplaning, including:

  • The vehicle’s gross weight;
  • Driving on improperly inflated tires;
  • Traveling at excessive speeds;
  • Driving on worn tires;
  • The depth of the water on the roadway; and
  • Making a sharp turn.

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Earlier this week, an accident involving two semi-trucks, two buses, and several passenger cars sent 29 people to the hospital, several with serious injuries. According to a local news report, the collision occurred in the evening hours during a time when roads were slick due to the recent snowfall.

Snowy RoadGiven the magnitude of the accident, authorities have yet to determine exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. Witnesses told reporters that the two semi-trucks involved in the accident were traveling at a high rate of speed, which resulted in the trucks being unable to stop in time to avoid the collision. Once the trucks crashed into the buses, other motorists nearby got involved in a chain-reaction accident, similar to many Maryland bus accidents that we have seen.

One of the buses was pushed off to the side of the road, where it teetered on the edge of an embankment. Those on board were told not to move until it was safe to do so. Accident reconstructionists surveyed the scene and its aftermath, and the accident is still under official investigation.

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Truck drivers have a lot of responsibility when operating large commercial vehicles across the nation’s highways. They must ensure that they remain alert during their trip, follow all posted traffic signs, and stay very aware of their surroundings, due to the significant blind spots most large trucks have. These difficulties are only compounded when inclement weather rolls in. Indeed, the number of Maryland truck accidents spikes during the winter months, when road conditions are most compromised. Often, weather-related truck accidents are caused in part by unexpected or otherwise dangerous road conditions. However, truck driver error also plays a role in most weather-related truck accidents.

Icy RoadTruck drivers are responsible to account for the current weather and road conditions when operating their rig. This may mean pulling off to the side of the road during an especially bad snowstorm or traveling below the posted speed limit. When a truck driver fails to take these additional precautions, it is not just the weather that is to blame but also the truck driver.

Those injured in a Maryland truck accident have the ability to file a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the allegedly negligent driver and, in many cases, against the driver’s employer as well.

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Over the next several months of winter, Maryland will likely see numerous rain and snow storms. Indeed, the average amount of snowfall in Maryland as a whole is over 20 inches per year. In some areas of the state, the average reaches above 100 inches per year. It will come as no surprise to motorists to hear that the road conditions after a snowstorm can be extremely dangerous for all motorists. This is especially the case for those operating large semi-trucks or tractor-trailers.

Snowy RoadCommercial drivers who operate these large trucks are considered professional drivers and are required to obtain a certain amount of training. However, no amount of training can substitute for the good judgment required to safely operate a large truck on slick and icy Maryland roads after a snow storm. Not all truck accidents are avoidable, but there are certain things that all truck drivers should do in order to ensure safe travel during inclement road conditions:

  • Ensure that all tires are in good condition and are properly inflated;
  • Double-check the braking systems before each trip;
  • Ensure adequate stopping distance by not following too closely;
  • Always remain distraction-free; and
  • Maintain a safe speed given the conditions.

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Earlier this month in Michigan, a truck accident involving 53 vehicles claimed the lives of three people. According to one local news source covering the tragedy, the accident occurred when a sudden snowfall caused white-out conditions on the highway. Evidently, the massive chain reaction accident began when a semi-truck jackknifed, blocking most of the lanes on the highway.

Snowy HighwayAuthorities do not know exactly what happened in the moments after the initial collision between several cars and the jackknifed semi-truck, due to the number of subsequent collisions and vehicles involved. However, authorities are confident in labeling this as a weather-related accident, since the road already had a thin sheet of ice on it before it started to snow.

Witnesses to the accident told reporters that cars and trucks approaching the pile-up were applying their brakes as soon as they could see the upcoming collision, but they were often too late. Dozens of vehicles collided on the highway, and dozens more ended up off the road in an attempt to avoid what would have been a certain collision.

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Late last month, two republican lawmakers witnessed a major semi-truck accident and acted as first responders, providing assistance to the accident victims until emergency responders arrived. According to one local news source covering the accident, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Joe Heck of Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District were on their way back to their hotel in West Virginia when they witnessed the accident.

Stormy HighwayEvidently, Heck, a board-certified physician, and Rubio witnessed a west-bound semi-truck cross the median after the driver had lost control. After crossing into the median, the truck then struck three cars traveling in the opposite direction. The two lawmakers stopped their vehicle and provided assistance until emergency responders arrived. They pulled one man out of an overturned car. Sadly, a 62-year-old man was pronounced dead by Heck as a result of the collision. The others injured in the semi-truck accident are expected to make a full recovery.

Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the fatal accident. However, according to witnesses, it is possible that the semi-truck hydroplaned and lost control as a result, leading to the accident.

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Earlier this week in California, a semi-truck was involved in a serious accident when the driver of the rig lost control as he was traveling on the highway. According to one local news report, the driver of the truck was traveling on Interstate 80, heading downhill from the summit of Castle Peak, when he lost control of the vehicle, eventually ending up with the truck overturning on the highway.

foggy-bridge-1467015Evidently, the weather conditions at the time were rainy and wet. Authorities who were investigating the accident told reporters that they believe the weather to be at least one factor in the accident. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured as a result of the accident, although the driver did suffer minor injuries.

Weather Related Truck Accidents

As the weather in Maryland begins to change in the coming months, road conditions will be difficult at times. It is important for drivers to take extra care when operating their vehicles in these compromised conditions. While the authorities investigating the truck accident discussed above noted that the weather was a factor in the accident, rarely will weather be an “excuse” to relieve the responsible party of liability.

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Earlier this month, during one of the several snow storms that swept through Maryland, a truck carrying 93 head of cattle toppled over after it slid off the road. According to a report by the Washington Times, the accident occurred on Interstate 81 near the interchange with Route 40, not far from Hagerstown.

winter-blizzard-scene-1406789-mEvidently, no one was hurt in the accident, however, it is not clear if any of the cattle were injured. Two lanes of traffic remained closed for several hours while another truck came to the scene to transport the shaken-up animals.

Reports indicate that, at the time of the accident, there was about six inches of snow that had recently fallen. Some parts of Western Maryland saw as much as 9.5 inches of snow during the same storm.

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