Maryland Trucking Accident News: Driver of Runaway Semi Avoids Fatal Crash by Using Emergency Escape Ramp

Trucking safety requires a combination of professional driving and well-maintained equipment. While the majority of tractor-trailer rigs are serviced correctly and driven by responsible individuals, many are not. Sometimes a mechanical failure can cause a big rig to go out of control, which is one of the most dangerous traffic situations, especially along mountain roads.

As Maryland truck accident lawyers, my office represents motorists and bystanders who have been injured as a result of a semi-trailer collision. Fatal injuries are not uncommon in truck-related wrecks

A recent news article pointed up the quick thinking that truck drivers need to have to avoid fatal results. According to reports, a Virginia driver turned a potentially deadly situation on that state’s Route 135 into a happy ending. The incident occurred at Backbone Mountain after the man’s rig lost the use of its brakes as well as its transmission.

Bonzell Garland, 32, had apparently left Mountain Lake Park in his 1997 Kenworth tractor pulling a 2006 Cherokee trailer loaded with conveyor belt equipment. The rig, which is owned by Legacy Express Inc., in Richmond, was traveling down a steep nine-percent descent on Route 135 at around 12:30pm with 78,000 pounds of truck and machinery. Garland wad headed from Garrett County to Interstate 68 and eventually to his destination in Norfolk.

According to news articles, that steep stretch of Route 135 runs for about four miles from Swanton to Bloomington. Police reports indicate that the truck’s brakes and transmission failed along the decline, during which event the driver saw the lights flashing on the advance sign that signals an upcoming escape ramp, which he decided to utilize.

Reportedly, Garland told police that his transmission and brakes failed as he was traveling 45 to 50 mph when he ditched the rig into the escape ramp. Police investigators estimated that the rig was traveling close to 65mph when it hit the runaway ramp where a 3-foot deep mixture of sand and pea gravel finally brought the tractor-trailer to a halt — more than 550 feet into the 1,800-foot runaway ramp.

According to the article, Backbone Mountain has been the scene of numerous fatal accidents over the last 30 years involving big rigs that failed to stop before slamming into the rocky embankment at the base of the mountain. Twenty or more crosses commemorating drivers who have died there are painted on the rocky hillside where Route 135 flattens out and abruptly makes a 90-degree turn past the NewPage paper mill.

Driver saved by escape ramp,, November 10, 2009

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