Infrastructure failure or 'reckless driver': Shoulder rollover 'preventable'?


In this accident scenario, the latest in Overdrive sister publication CCJ's "Preventable or Not?" series, evasive action on the part of John Doe truck driver lands him on a road's shoulder. He'd been hauling toward a destination in Elkader, Iowa, when a brown station wagon veered directly into his path at a high rate of speed, seeking to enter a roadside flea market. 

Doe braked hard, steering to that shoulder. To his horror, it turned out to be so soft his rig slowly rolled onto its side, in a ditch.

His company sent him a preventable-accident warning letter, nonetheless. Yet Doe contested that determination by calling on the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee to settle the matter. 

[Related: Impatient driver attempts to cut off rig's right turn: Was the accident 'preventable?']

The verdict? Infrastructure failure, in this case -- with no soft-shoulder warning signs -- left Doe with no real way in the moment to anticipate the peril that awaited the truck and his career. NSC ruled in his favor with a nonpreventable determination. Such determinations continue to accrue greater weight in carrier and driver safety records, particularly in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's accident-review program for certain types of crashes. 

With a nonpreventable judgment from FMCSA's review committee, carriers and drivers won't remove an accident from the record entirely, yet such accidents will no longer contribute to FMCSA's CSA program scores and rankings.

Read more about the program via this link, likewise changes proposed in April to expand the program here. Catch all recent installments in the "Preventable or Not?" series via this link.  

[Related: Do we need a rulemaking on crash 'preventability' as a standard for removal from carrier scores?]


Truck driver John Doe was headed west on I-80, headed to the town of Elkader in eastern Iowa on a sunny day with light traffic. After turning off the interstate onto Elkader Highway, a brown station wagon veered directly into his path at a high rate of speed, seeking to enter a roadside flea market. 

Instinctively, Doe braked hard, and steered onto the shoulder, which to his horror turned out to be soft and caused his trailer to roll slowly into a ditch.

Because Doe contested his preventable-accident warning letter, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to settle the matter. NSC quickly ruled in Doe’s favor, noting the lack of soft shoulder warning signs.

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