NTSB investigates Chesapeake Bay Bridge after recent accident


After a three-vehicle accident that sent a woman over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and into the water below, federal and state officials, including crash experts from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspected the 61-year-old Maryland bridge to determine whether improvements needed to be made to improve its safety. State officials, including Maryland's governor, promised to implement any recommended improvements.

The collision occurred July 19 when a tractor-trailer slammed into an automobile, causing it to hit an SUV. According to witnesses, the truck then hit the car again, pushing it over the concrete barrier on the side of the bridge, and 27 feet into Chesapeake Bay. The 22-year-old driver of the car had to swim to a rock piling, which she clung to until she could be rescued.

Leif Dormsjo, the state deputy transportation secretary, said that the inquiry into crash would determine the cause, review the quality of the response by state and local agencies, and analyze the bridge engineering to see if any improvements were needed. He reassured the public that state officials would do whatever they could to improve the bridge's safety.

The local chapter of the American Automobile Association (AAA Mid-Atlantic) and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski have questioned the safety of the bridge, and specifically whether the three and a half feet-tall concrete barriers are high enough to keep a vehicle from going over the side, as happened in this accident. The state made improvements to the guardrails in 2009 after a truck driver was hurled off the bridge to his death.

So far, the truck driver who caused the accident has not been charged with any violations, although Dormsjo said he likely will be when the investigation is completed. The company that owns the truck, which is based on Prince Edward Island in Canada, has a good safety record. Regardless of whether the state files criminal charges against the truck driver, the victims can still file civil lawsuits against him, as well as his company, if he is found to be at fault.

Law firms that deal with victims of car accidents and other vehicular collisions can attest to the fact that some roads and bridges have particularly dangerous spots that see multiple accidents. Fortunately, no one was killed in this incident.

The Baltimore Sun, "Federal safety experts inspect vehicles involved in Bay Bridge crash" Candy Thomson, Jul. 25, 2013

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