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Deadly Collision on Bridge Prompts Safety Warning

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration regarding a fatal truck accident and asked them to contact various state departments of transportation regarding bridge corrosion. The hope of the NTSB is to raise awareness about bridge safety and encourage new inspection methods to prevent guardrail failures like the one that occurred in Maryland two summers ago.

The incident prompting this action occurred in August of 2008 when the driver of a car fell asleep while crossing the Bay Bridge. A tractor-trailer had to swerve to avoid the car, and in doing so, hit a guardrail that gave way. The truck ultimately fell into Chesapeake Bay, killing the truck driver. The driver of the car and a passenger were also injured in the crash.

An investigation of the crash found that the bridge guardrails and supports had been weakened my corrosion. Even though the impact of the large tractor-trailer may have caused the failure of the guardrails if they had not been corroded, the impact of the car on the opposite side of the bridge also caused a large section of guardrail to fall off the bridge. The Maryland Transportation Authority eventually spent more than $3 million to repair the bridge.

The NTSB is seeking to develop better bridge inspection methods in order to supplement common visual inspection techniques, which often do not adequately detect corrosion on some components of a bridge.

The driver of the car was eventually charged criminally in relation to the incident and pled guilty to negligent driving. The truck driver's family was reported to have settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the insurance company representing the driver of the car.

Source: The Capital, Transportation Safety Board Warns About Corrosion, Shantee Woodwards, 11/27/10

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