Most often when we think about car or truck accidents, we imagine the parties actually involved in the wreck, not the State Highway patrol or the North Carolina Department of Transportation Crews. WBTV, however, recently discussed how state budget cuts may impact the safety of officers, state employees, and drivers in general.
The issue begins with the roads and those workers that maintain the roads, making repairs where needed, insuring the safety of bridges and the stability of guardrails, and maintaining the areas around the road to increase visibility. A cut in the budget for the NCDOT crews would mean less staff to keep our roads safe; a problem that NC doesn’t need according to the highway patrol, who claim that they already respond to approximately 4,800 wrecks a year on interstates 485, 85 and 77.
How will a budget cut affect drivers in North Carolina? The thought of less construction zones may sound like music to your ears, but let’s put it into perspective.
American Society of Civil Engineers reports:
- 54% of North Carolina’s major urban highways arecongested, and 44% of North Carolina’s major urban roads are in poor or mediocrecondition.
- Driving on roads in need of repair costs North Carolina motorists $2.1 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – an average of $326 per driver.
- 27% of North Carolina’s bridges (4,937) are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
So, the interstates you travel are going to remain congested, you are spending approximately $326 a year per driver in your family to maintain your car as a result of the deficient roads, and almost 5,000 of the bridges you drive on are structurally flawed.
There are many variations of accidents that could occur as a result of the budget cut – suppose a driver veers off the road, and normally would’ve been stopped by the guardrail but instead drives into oncoming traffic because that guardrail hasn’t been fixed, resulting in multiple injuries and potentially death.
Or suppose a trucker with a large load comes up too fast on a wreck on the interstate because the state workers didn’t have enough manpower to warn upcoming traffic of the wreck. Now the truck cannot stop in time, leading to even more injuries.
Driving is an inherently dangerous activity that many of us participate in every day. In a previous post, we discussed the duties drivers afford other persons when behind the wheel of a car. It is important to remember that your duty as a driver doesn’t change just because the quality of the road worsens. Outside of a few circumstances, your conduct will usually be measured against that of another reasonable person in similar circumstances.
In our guard rail example, a reasonable person likely would not have veered off the road in the first place, thus even though the guardrail could have potentially kept you from crossing into oncoming traffic, you still breached your duty of care.
The question of liability will likely arise with regards to proximate causation – is it fair to impose liability on the driver? If the guard rail had been properly maintained, it would have kept the driver on the proper side of the road, however due to budget cuts the guard rail was left to deteriorate.
These are just a few issues relating to budget cuts and highway safety, but hopefully as Trooper Burgin states, “[t]he department heads I’m sure will make the right decision and cut where they see it needs to be cut for the public safety.”
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, you should contact an attorney regarding your case. Most experienced personal injury attorneys offer a free legal consultation and will work with you to evaluate your options.