Today marks one year since a chain reaction of auto collisions on I-75 near Gainesville, Florida that claimed 11 lives and injured 24. The series of collisions happened, in part, because of visibility that was extremely limited due to dense fog and wildfire smoke.
The multi-vehicle collisions included a dozen cars and pickup trucks, a motor home and six tractor-trailer trucks. Florida Highway Patrol closed the interstate for three hours until the fog and smoke cleared to an acceptable level. Unfortunately, the fog and smoke returned, and some drivers came to a complete stop on the interstate. The motorists behind the stopped cars were unable to see brake lights ahead and slammed into the stopped cars just before dawn, resulting in an explosive pile up.
Since then, those injured in these car accidents have filed notices that they intend to pursue negligence lawsuits against the state of Florida for allowing the road to reopen under what became unsafe conditions. There are also concerns that the state should implement additional road safety standards and new protocols for closing and opening roads.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement report provides that the Florida Highway Patrol erred in reopening the road. The Florida Highway Patrol defends their decision to reopen the road. Whether or not it acted negligently is yet to be determined.
Drivers have a responsibility to drive defensively and pay close attention to road conditions at all times. According to DefensiveDriving.com, fog is one of the most dangerous conditions in which to drive and should be avoided. If a driver encounters fog, the website recommends slowing down and driving with low beam headlights, as high beams can reduce visibility even more due to glare reflecting off the fog. The Weather Channel recommends using your wipers and defrosters to improve visibility and using the right edge of the road as a guide.
No matter how thick the fog, drivers should never stop on the roadway. If visibility is poor, pull off of the road completely, stop, and turn on your emergency flashers so others can see you. Do not make any sudden stops or turns when pulling off the road. Tap your brakes, slow down, and pull to a safe spot gradually.
In fog situations or other weather conditions that make driving difficult, it is especially important to keep your eyes focused on the road and avoid distractions, such as talking or texting. Even talking with other passengers can be a distraction. Avoid the radio and crack the window slightly to increase your ability to hear other vehicles. And finally, if you do not absolutely need to drive, do not drive in fog. Take heed of dense fog advisories, which happen frequently in Jacksonville’s humid subtropical climate. If fog is present, consider postponing your trip until mid or late afternoon, when fog usually dissipates.
Written by Elizabeth Allen
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in the Gainesville or Northeast Florida area, please contact our Jacksonville car accident attorneys for a free no obligation consultation. We can help you obtain compensation for your personal injuries, including lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering.