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If you have never seen it, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, named one of the “Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World,” is a stunning masterpiece.  Crossing this 23-mile long bridge surrounded by miles of water can be daunting, but is done so by an estimated 1 million commercial and passenger vehicles yearly.  But, after a recent accident, many are questioning the safety of the bridge barriers.

Last Friday, a tractor-trailer rear-ended the woman’s 2007 Chrysler Sebring shortly after she drove onto the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  By the woman’s account, after being hit by the truck, her vehicle hit the barrier of the bridge pushing her vehicle back on the road, where it was once again hit by the tractor-trailer.  The force from the second impact sent her vehicle on top of the 3 ½ foot barrier before it tipped sending her plummeting into the Chesapeake Bay.  As her car began to fill with water, the woman refused to go into panic mode.  She maintained her calm, unbuckled her seatbelt and went through the broken driver’s side window.  Pushing off the vehicle the woman obtained enough momentum to get to the surface where she swam to a nearby rock pile until her rescue.

As the woman recalled the 40-foot plunge, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators were planning a meeting with Maryland Transportation Authority officials to review the accident and determine how the woman’s vehicle could catapult over the safety barrier.  According to Doug Hutcheson, Chief Engineer for the Maryland Transportation Authority, “if a vehicle ran into the bridge barrier at a small angle, it would deflect the vehicle back into the bridge-way with minimal damage.”  Of course, the barrier did deflect her vehicle after the first impact, but why not the second time she was hit by the tractor-trailer?  Similar questions were raised when a tractor trailer went off the bridge killing the driver.  At that time, officials said federal standards only required that barriers contain automobiles and impacts from auto-to-auto crashes, not tractor-trailers or cars hit by a tractor-trailer.

During a debate on a $54 billion transportation and housing spending bill, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D) questioned whether the barriers were high enough to act as guardrails and prevent vehicles from leaving the roadways.  No motorist crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or any other bridge should have to worry about plummeting overboard in the event of an accident.  I hope this latest incident reopens this debate.  Shouldn’t federal standards require that a proper system of protection (strong barrier) prevent such accidents?  Shouldn’t motorists have peace of mind while traveling the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or any other bridge?

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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