Watch out! Construction Zones

Bridge Accident

 FM 2484 Bridge Incident

At about 11:30AM, Thursday, March 26, a Lares Trucking (Crowley,TX) flatbed carrying a “cherry picker” lift-truck on northbound I-35 (between Waco and Austin) crossed under the under-construction FM 2484 overpass located on the north side of Salado, striking the bridge beams. Several beams fell, one on a pickup driven by Clark Brandon Davis of Arlington. Davis was 32 years old and left behind a daughter. Three people were injured, including a driver for CR England, who was airlifted from the scene.

Three warning signs were posted within two miles of the bridge indicating the bridge height was 13 feet and 6 inches. Actual bridge height was about 14 feet. Lares Trucking was not permitted to haul an over-height load, according to TX-DPS, required for loads over 14 feet high.

Construction Zone Facts

Every year hundreds of people (mostly drivers) are killed (over 720 people in 2008) and over 40,000 are injured in construction zones.

Construction zone speeds can change — and lanes may shift — quickly, if one is not paying attention.

There are distractions or even hidden hazards (like people, construction vehicles or even rail crossings) in construction zones.

It’s easy to miss important safety cues.

Legal Considerations

Fines (and points on your license) are doubled in construction zones, in a number of states. Fines may be higher when workers are present.

The flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign. A driver be cited for failing to obey a flagger’s directions.

All temporary signs in construction work zones have an orange background and black letters or symbols. Temporary signs may indicate how soon you will encounter the work zone, what to do, and the work zone speed limit. Observe posted signs until you see the one that says “End Road Work.” Watch for restricted or closed lanes.

There are high fines and even jail time for killing road workers, depending on the circumstances and the state.

Negotiating the Construction Zone

Focus. Focus. Focus. Pay extra attention to traffic and traffic signs.

Night construction zones are doubly dangerous. No matter how well lit the road, everything is harder to see. Slow down.

Expect and plan for delays. Leave a “time safety margin” by leaving early.

Better yet, use an alternative route and avoid adding to the construction zone congestion.

Texting, cell phones, the radio, CB, food and drink, maps, directions, etc., are distractions and can turn into incidents, accidents, or deadly distractions.

Leave extra space around your vehicle. If possible and safe to do so, adjust your lane position away from the side where workers and equipment are located. Increase your following distance and expect vehicles ahead to brake or slow suddenly.

If traffic backs up, expect motorcycles to drive along the shoulder or “right-of-way.” They are encouraged to do this by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, so they don’t get pinned between two vehicles in ‘stop and go’ situations.

Don’t be a “traffic cop,” by blocking other vehicles or not showing a spirit of cooperation.

Thanks for reading this. Drive friendly. 

 

 

 

Dangers of Night Driving

Honda Civic

A Highway Angel

It was about 2:30AM, April 26, 2014. Boyd Miles, 42, was a team driver with his cousin Christopher Crandall, 23, when their truck broke down on  I-15 outside of Lehi, Utah. The two men were standing on the passenger side of truck between the truck and the jersey barriers when a Honda Civic driven by James Warren, 27, of Lehi drifted off the side of the road. The driver of the Civic had fallen asleep. Crandall recalls someone yelling “Watch out!,” before waking up paralyzed from waist down. It was Miles who had yelled and attempted to push his cousin out of the way, but was fatally stuck. Miles was survived by his wife and young daughter. For his actions, Miles was recently named a “Highway Angel” by the Truckload Carriers Association.

Facts about Night Driving

(1.) Accident-related death rates are 3 times greater at night, and driving after dark can increase the risk of crashing. Some of the worst crashes occur at night.

(2.) Driving at night can be dangerous:

  • Decreased visibility: it’s harder to see people, motorcycles, signs, etc.
  • Decreased depth perception to see oncoming vehicles or to judge distances.
  • Older drivers need more light; some drivers are afflicted with night blindness (nyctalopia).
  • At night there is more construction activity during the week and more drunk drivers on the weekend. Weekend nights are the most likely part of the week for fatal accidents, according to the National Safety Council.
  • Cyclists are difficult to spot, as their lights are not as powerful as cars. It can also be more difficult to spot the single headlight of a motorcyclist at night if they are around cars.
  • Hazards often seem to appear out of nowhere.

Night Driving Tips

(1) See and be Seen

  •  Keep your windshield clean and carry extra windshield wash.
  • Clean  your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals and make sure all lights are in proper working order.
  • Turn your lights on earlier rather than later. Put your headlights on about an hour before the sun goes down.
  • Don’t “overdrive” your headlights; be able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

(2) Avoid Nighttime Glare

  • Don’t look at oncoming headlights. Instead focus on the right side of the road near the white lines.
  • Dim your interior lights to avoid glare.

(3) Drive defensively

  • Signal your intentions clearly.
  • Expect the unexpected from drivers around you.
  • Slow down and increase your following distance.
  • Pay extra attention to your surroundings.

(4) Plan the trip in advance

Truck struck at night.

This driver of this truck said he was lost before his truck was struck by a train.

  • Share the driving, if possible, with another, well-rested driver.
(5) Prevent Underride
Generally underride accidents (where a car goes under a trailer) occur at night and represent one quarter of the fatalities from truck-involved collisions. Factors contributing to underride include:
  • Inoperative or dirty lights on the trailer’s side,
  • Bright lights and/or bright sign-boards from a fuel station or truck stop near the side of the road.
  • A very slow-moving CMV or truck,
  • A truck making a left turn or backing across traffic.
Factors that can contribute to rear under-ride include:
  • Inoperative, dirty, or dim taillights,
  • Taillights placed very close together,
  • Failure to properly use reflective triangles when parked or broken down on or near the road, and
  • Failure to use emergency flashers when entering or exiting the highway at slow speeds. (Source: Dr. John C. Glennon)

Thank you for reading this. Drive friendly. 

Watch out! Highway Grade (RRX) Crossings

highway-grade collision

Open tracks, Hidden Dangers

On Monday, March 9, 2015, in Halifax County, N.C. an oversized tractor-trailer running under permit and special police escort was hit by an Amtrak train. The collision resulted in injuries to many passengers and caused a derailment.

Facts:

Several commercial vehicles are involved in train collisions on a daily basis.

Monday’s collision was the third serious train crash in less than two months. Crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30. —insurancejournal.com

Police escorts are there to control traffic around the crossing.

Alerting the railroad wasn’t the responsibility of the trooper. (AP)

A permit is permission, not a safety clearance and not a command.

Circumstances can and do change. Permitting authorities can make mistakes in routing. Signage on the route may be incorrect. In negotiating rail crossings Murphy’s Law (things always go wrong at the worst possible moment), applies double. Remember: Anytime is Train Time.

Countermeasures

Countermeasures are proven safety measures, actions, or techniques that can be adapted to your specific type of operation for increased safety.

  • Approaching the crossing:
  • Never ignore flashing lights or closing gates.
  • Slow down, look in both directions, and test your brakes.
  • Be certain you don’t see a train. Roll down windows; turn off fans and radios; be sure you can hear warning whistles.
  • If required: stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet from the tracks.
  • Beginning to cross:
  • Never enter a crossing unless you have enough space to fully clear the tracks on the other side, including your truck’s overhang.
  • Never shift gears while on tracks.
  • If the gate comes down after you have started across, drive through it even if it means breaking the gate — the gate is designed to break.
  • Check the crossing signals one final time before proceeding.

hungup

  • If you get stuck on the tracks:
    • Beware! Trailers with low ground clearance can get stuck on raised crossings. (A train and a low-ground-clearance trailer collide every two weeks!)
    • Immediately call the posted 1-800 number or 911 to alert police about the stalled vehicle and ensure the railroad is contacted.
    • If your truck is hung-up on the tracks, get out and quickly move away from the tracks in the direction of the approaching train.
    • Provide the exact location of the crossing, using the DOT/AAR crossing number, which may be posted on the crossbuck post or signal pole, box, or bungalow, and the name of the road or highway which crosses the tracks.

Metrolink crash

  • Be aware of distractions while approaching the crossing.
  • A tractor-trailer was hit while the driver was talking on the CB;
  • A tractor-trailer was hit while in the middle of a construction zone that spanned both sides of the tracks;
  • Another tractor-trailer driver was talking with his young son.
  • In the fiery picture above, from the February 24, 2015 Metrolink crash, the tractor-trailer driver said he was lost.
  • NEVER TRY TO “BEAT THE TRAIN.”

49 CFR Part 383.51 contains the standards for driver disqualification, including (d) Disqualification for railroad-highway grade crossing offenses. Table 3 to §383.51 contains a list of the offenses and the periods for which a person who is required to have a CLP or CDL is disqualified, when the driver is operating a CMV at the time of the violation. A commercial driver can lose their CDL from 60 days to up to a year for these rule violations (if not his or her life or limb).

Summary

At every railroad-highway crossing a driver needs to look for, anticipate, and yield right of way to an approaching train. Far too many train-truck collisions are occurring, with catastrophic, life-changing consequences. Know your route, have a backup route, and if possible, avoid highway-grade crossings.

Thanks for reading this. Stay safe!