Four Twin Cities college students lost their lives when the vehicle they were riding in crashed during a snowstorm. All four girls were attended North Dakota State University.
The foursome were heading back to college after a three-day holiday weekend when the driver slid off a snow-covered Highway 94 and went through the median into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with an SUV. All four girls were wearing seat belts.
An investigation is ongoing to determine if speed or driver distraction played a role in this fatal accident, but the question many are asking is whether a cable barrier would have saved these young adults.
Guard rails are something most people don’t think about until it saves their life or they loss a loved one. They may not prevent the accident, but they will usually minimize the severity of injuries. Even when an accident occurs, a driver running into a median barrier is most often slowed dramatically and does not cross into oncoming traffic.
Agencies that design and maintain roads and highways have a continuing duty to ensure that dangerous conditions will not imperil motorists exercising reasonable care. Although drivers may be distracted, skid or slid due to adverse weather conditions, or merely driving carelessly, failure to avoid foreseeable events from turning tragic is a form of negligence. Drivers have a right to expect that their government won’t allow dangerous roads to cause accidents. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said that because placement of barriers cost upwards of $150,000 per mile to install, placement is based on traffic volume, the number of accidents, and the average speed of drivers. The stretch of Highway 94 where this accident occurred is considered a low-volume area of the highway. But, accidents can, and do, happen everywhere; barriers do make a difference.
I do not know if the families of these victims have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but I do know that dangerous road cases take a long time to prove the government was aware of a significant roadway danger, but failed to fix it. The government bodies controlling the roads have strong defenses put in place by the government itself. Proving a dangerous roadway caused an auto accident can be a long legal process and difficult to prove, but successful cases not only benefit the victims, but indirectly force changes in dangerous road conditions that can save lives – changes that might not otherwise occur at all.
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