On Wednesday afternoon, January 30, 2019, a multi-vehicle pileup involving 27 cars and large trucks occurred on Route 222 in Wyomissing, Berks County, Pennsylvania during a whiteout from a snow squall. Of the 27 vehicles, the majority were passenger cars. There was also a big rig hauling mail, a dump truck, and a large box truck.
As a result of the accident, 24 people were injured, and the wreck blocked all lanes of Route 222 southbound between Route 422 westbound and Lebanon/Penn Ave-West Exit and Pennsylvania Route 724 – Sinking Spring/Shillington Exit. Fifteen of the injured were evaluated at the scene; nine were taken to Reading Hospital and eight were taken to Spring Township fire station. Of the nine individuals hospitalized, two were deemed critically injured.
PennDOT has reported the accident occurred during a snow squall and snow was visible on the roadway after the collisions occurred. A snow squall is an intense and short burst of heavy snowfall. It often leads to a quick reduction in visibility and is accompanied by gusty winds. In addition, roads are likely to become slick. Those conditions can quickly lead to high-speed wrecks and pileups. If you find yourself driving in a snow squall, reduce your speed, turn your headlights on, avoid slamming on your breaks, and pull over if you need to.
Unfortunately, that was not the only whiteout multi-vehicle pileup in the area that afternoon. Fourteen cars and trucks wrecked into each other on Interstate 78 westbound of Windsor Township during heavy snowfall. In that accident, three people suffered injuries. The interstate was closed for four hours.
Because of the involvement of large tractor trailers in the accident, a number of questions are raised in regard to the responsibilities truckers have to themselves as employees and other travelers on the road during inclement and possibly dangerous weather conditions.
It’s crucial to remember that commercial vehicles have a legal responsibility to operate with extreme caution any time the weather is poor. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act establishes this responsibility under § 392.14. The section states that commercial motor vehicles must exercise extreme caution when hazardous conditions, like snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect traction or visibility. Truckers should reduce their speed significantly when conditions persist.
In the event hazardous conditions worsen, commercial motor vehicles are supposed to discontinue operation until the hazard has passed. If it seems other travelers on the road could be in danger, truckers are supposed to drive their vehicle to the nearest point of safety and remain put until conditions improve to the point visibility and traction are significantly better.
No matter what the inclement weather, there are steps truck drivers can take prior to and during travel to ensure they are not endangering themselves or anyone else on the road. Before traveling, it’s a good idea to build a safety kit. This could include things like jumper cables, tire chains, a flashlight, rain gear, extra clothes, food, water, and blankets. If a truck driver needs to pull over and is stuck for an extended period of time, they’ll be prepared to wait it out.
It’s also important for pre-driving inspections to be conducted. If poor weather is predicted for any time during a hauling trip, truckers should check their vehicle and ensure all equipment is working properly. In poor weather, tires, lights, wiper blades, and windshield fluid are likely to be necessary. A trip can quickly turn difficult and dangerous if the truck isn’t maintained.
Finally, during the trip, and to remain in accordance with federal guidelines, it may be necessary to reduce speed, which allows for more reaction time in the event of a hazard or emergency. Truck drivers should also be prepared to pull off the road and wait until the weather improves. This can be difficult because drivers are often on strict schedules; however, ensuring the safety of all travelers and preventing unnecessary injuries and deaths is more important.
In addition to the actions truck drivers can take, it’s imperative that drivers of smaller vehicles remain aware of the road conditions and recognize the dangers associated with driving recklessly near a tractor trailer. When all vehicle operators drive according to road conditions, the number of accidents is likely to decrease.
The attorneys at Shrager & Sachs understand how difficult it can be to cope with a commercial truck accident and manage the consequences. If you have any questions about legal matters pertaining to a wreck, we may be able to provide you with answers. Contact us for a free consultation.