A seemingly bizarre accident sent a woman who had been a passenger in a minivan on I-81 in southwest Virginia (VA) to the hospital with serious injuries. According to police reports cited by the Associated Press, the boom of a crane being transported on a tractor-trailer hit the underside of an overpass and broke loose a 25-lb. block of concrete that crashed through the windshield of the smaller vehicle.
The driver of the semi has been ticketed for hauling an over-height load through the small town of Draper. The woman’s injuries are serious but not considered life-threatening.
Left out of the news report is the obvious point that the accident never should have occurred. Bridge and overpass heights are no secret, and commercial truck drivers are required to map out routes that prevent them from encountering low-clearance hazards. Once truckers hit the road, GPS systems and checklists allow them to confirm they are on the correct route. An additional degree of safety is often required in the form of an escort vehicle that leads the tractor-trailers bearing very tall equipment.
Despite all this, over-height loads get stuck under, clip and scrape along bridges and overpasses all the time. One of the worst incidents of this occurred in the state of Washington (WA) during 2013 when a piece of drilling equipment broke a key support on a steel bridge on I-585, causing the structure to collapse into a river. While that was particularly dramatic — and thankfully, not fatal — each impact undermines the structural integrity of every bridge and overpass every time.
As a Virginia personal injury lawyer who has helped dozens of victims of accidents caused by commercial truck drivers and trucking companies who ignore safety regulations, I urge all people on the road to give wide berths to all trailers carrying very tall and very wide loads.