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Fatal PA Turnpike accident shows danger of poorly maintained roads

Personal Injury Lawyers serving Hazelton, Pa. Medical Malpractice, workers' compensation and all Luzerne County cases.

Badly maintained roads pose car crash risk

Last week, a 70-year-old man was killed driving through the Lehigh Tunnel on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. According to news reports, he was killed when an electrical conduit (a pipe-like tube holding power cables) fell from the ceiling of the tunnel and crashed through the windshield of his truck.

According to reports in The Morning Call  the southbound Lehigh Tunnel is the newest of five tunnels on the turnpike's system and it is the only one with a conduit located directly above traffic. Federal regulations require that tunnels be inspected every two years. The most recent inspection of the Lehigh Tunnel was in September 2016.

Poor tunnel maintenance can be fatal for drivers

In 2016 alone, American roads carried people and goods over three trillion miles. If roads, tunnels and bridges are not properly maintained they can contribute to auto accidents and result in serious injury or fatality.

Signs of poor road maintenance that can lead to car and truck accidents:

  • Potholes and crumbling roadways
  • Poor drainage of water
  • Trees and shrubs that obstruct visibility
  • Debris and other hazards on the road
  • Poor lighting
  • Insufficient signage and poorly marked ramps
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals
  • Crumbling or dimly lit tunnels
  • Weakened bridges

Poorly maintained roads and tunnels in Pennsylvania and across the U.S.

According to a study by the International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences (IATSS),  although the chance of crash occurrence is lower in a tunnel than on an open highway, the likelihood of crash injury severity and fatalities is greater. The design of tunnels requires many important components not needed on open roadways, such as fire detection and fire safety systems, ventilation, 24-hour lighting, and communications systems.

In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card on America's Infrastructure gave America's roads a score of D. The report said that one out of every five miles of highway pavement in the U.S. is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. The ASCE reported that the U.S. has been underfunding its highway system for many years, resulting in an $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs. The bulk of the backlog ($420 billion) is for repairing existing highway systems. The ASCE encouraged prioritizing maintenance and the state of good repair to maximize the lifespan of roads.

At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, our car accident lawyers know that bad roadway infrastructure can be dangerous. This can include crumbling and poorly maintained tunnels, structurally weak bridges, and roads riddled with potholes and cracks. Although our network of roadways, bridges, and tunnels in the U.S. is critical to our economy, that vital network has been poorly maintained for decades. This fatal Pennsylvania turnpike tunnel accident shows that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on adequate and ongoing road and tunnel maintenance on our nation's highways. Lives depend on it.


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