Fatal I-485 Truck Crash Highlights Summer Road Construction Risks

A fatal crash in Charlotte in the construction zone of I-485 is being at least partially blamed on a confusing maze of concrete barriers and temporary off ramps.
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Still, our Asheville construction accident lawyers understand that the state’s Department of Transportation is denying any safety hazards that would prompt the need for more warning signage at the site.

Construction crews are working to widen a swath of I-485 just south of Charlotte. In the course of that work, contractors installed temporary concrete barriers as a means to protect the workers who are adding new lanes in the median.

In doing so, there are a number of access points along the work site where the concrete barriers shift. In some cases, there are short off-ramps solely for construction vehicles, which quickly close off again so that regular vehicles won’t be able to pass through.

The Charlotte Observer reported that it’s possible for those temporary off-ramps to be mistaken for a third highway lane.

It’s unclear if that’s what happened in this case. What we do know is this:

It was about 8:30 a.m. when a 54-year-old dump truck driver hit a concrete barrier near one of those temporary off-ramps. The impact of the crash caused the dump truck to flip over and subsequently burst into flames. The driver of that truck was killed.

Crash investigators are trying to figure out if the trucker was distracted, if he mistook the temporary off-ramp for a new lane, or if he just lost control of his truck.

An NCDOT spokesperson was quoted as saying that the concrete barriers are erected by contractors, who are responsible for ensuring safe configuration.

Despite the crash, state officials say they have no intention of posting signs warning motorists that the temporary off-ramps aren’t all-purpose lanes. Speed limits in the work zone have been slashed to 55 miles per hour and there is a solid yellow line on the outside of the left land, which is intended to instruct drivers not to cross.

The trucker worked for a company out of York County, South Carolina.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were nearly 88,000 crashes that occurred in work zones in 2010 alone.

Of those, about 70 percent caused significant property damage, about 30 percent caused serious injuries and a fraction were fatal.

The vast majority of fatal work zone crashes happened between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Part of this is because these are the hours when we are likely to see the most traffic and therefore the most potential for interaction between road crews and motorists.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports there is a work zone injury every 14 minutes, or nearly 100 every single day. These result in some 20,000 construction worker injuries each year. About 12 percent of those are attributed to transportation incidents. The rest are due to contact with construction equipment or objects, slips, falls and trips, overexertion and exposure to harmful environments or substances.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid, exclusive of case costs.

Additional Resources:
N.C. DOT: No safety changes needed at site of fatal I-485 truck wreck, June 28, 2013, By Hilary Trenda and Steve Harrison, The Charlotte Observer
More Blog Entries:
Fewer Carolina Trucking Accidents Possible with Hours-of-Service Rules, June 28, 2013, Asheville Road Construction Accident Lawyer Blog

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