ArticleIn this case, a single-vehicle construction work zone collision resulted in serious injury to a passenger. Robson Forensic was retained to determine if dangerous roadway conditions were a cause of the crash, and if those conditions were present due to improper actions of Contractor or Engineer.
This single-vehicle construction work zone collision resulted in serious injury to a passenger. Liability was established against both the construction contractor and the construction inspection firm.
We determined that: the collision occurred due to the car traveling at high speed and the road surface changing from paved to dirt/gravel as a result of construction activity; the crash occurred within a long-term construction work site; the only construction sign encountered by the driver in his approach to the work site was a Road Work Ahead sign; the street where the work was underway was used as a “cut through” by non-local traffic; the persistent high-speed non-local traffic through the construction site was dangerous to both the construction workers and the traffic; the contractor and the construction inspection firm were aware of, or should have been aware of, the speeding through-traffic prior to the collision, but made no change to the traffic control plan. Based on the facts and in accordance with standards for work zone traffic control, our expert opined that the contractor and the construction inspection firm: should have taken effective steps to detour the non-local traffic; and that the failure of the contractor and the construction inspection firm to employ reasonable and established measures to effectively close the street under construction to through traffic was improper and a substantial cause of the collision and resulting injury. The case settled during mediation.
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This single-vehicle run-off-the-road crash occurred June 15, 2006, at about 2:20 p.m. on Glenwood Avenue, in City, NH. The crash involved a 1995 Hyundai two-door hatchback, driven by Driver, and occurred within a construction work zone. Left Rear Passenger was injured as a result of the crash.
The construction underway was being performed by Contractor under contract to the City. Engineering and construction management services for the project were provided by Engineer. This investigation was performed to determine if dangerous roadway conditions were a cause of the crash, and if those conditions were present due to improper actions of Contractor or Engineer.
3. DESCRIPTION OF THE CRASH and CRASH SITE
The Police Accident Reconstruction report:
On June 15, 2006 at approximately 14:23 hours, Driver was driving west on Glenwood Avenue, having left the area of Broadway in the city of City… Driver eventually turned west onto Glenwood Avenue and reached the area of the construction. At that stage Driver was traveling at speeds of between 52 and 66 mph. After Driver left the paved portion of the roadway, for some unknown reason, he lost control of the vehicle. The most likely explanation is that the vehicle lost traction on the loose particulate due to his excessive speed. Driver‟s vehicle left the right side of the roadway and stuck the tree in front of #67 Glenwood Avenue…
At the crash visibility was daylight, the weather was partly cloudy, and the normally paved roadway surface was disrupted due to construction activity and dry.
Glenwood Avenue is oriented generally east-west and is a two-way, two-lane urban street under the jurisdiction of the City. Adjacent land use is residential. The police report states the speed limit was posted 30 mph for the entire length of Glenwood Avenue, both directions.
At the crash, Glenwood Avenue west of the Spaulding Turnpike bridge was being reconstructed. The construction crew was working at west of the crash site, and the crash site was in a partial stage of construction. The work was being done Contractor, under Contract No. 218681L for the City. Engineering and construction management services for the project were provided by Engineer.
Driver testified (D 84) that he turned left onto Glenwood Avenue at Horne Street. This is about ½ mile prior to the end of the bridge. Over this section, Glenwood Avenue curves slightly to the right and is generally level.
Driver approached the site by traversing Glenwood Avenue, where there had been no construction, crossing a concrete surface bridge over the Spaulding Turnpike, and then a dirt/gravel-surfaced Glenwood Avenue for 285 feet (to the struck tree).
The transition from the paved bridge to the dirt/gravel surface road was smooth according to Naclerio (deposition page 31, and memo of 6/26/06) and sloped slightly down due to excavation of the road.
The police described the road surface: “The road surface was comprised of loose gravel, with the particulate ranging in size from sand to egg size pebbles.”
The police “…inspected the mechanical components of the vehicle to see if there was some sort of mechanical defect that could have contributed to the crash.” The police did not find any mechanical defect that contributed to the crash.
I conclude that the collision occurred due to Driver traveling at high speed and the road surface changing from paved to dirt/gravel as a result of construction activity.
The roadway pavement had been removed on Glenwood Avenue west of the Spaulding Turnpike Bridge several weeks before the crash . The crash occurred within a long-term construction work site.
Although it is claimed [2,3] that various signs related to the construction were present, no signs are seen in the scene photos  at the end of the bridge pavement and beyond the bridge towards the intersection with Whittier Street. There were no flagmen on the job per Sklarz who notes the presence of flagmen and their hours in his daily reports (JS 58)
4. DANGEROUS ROADWAY CONDITIONS
Testimony indicates that Glenwood Avenue was used as a “cut through” by non-local traffic, and that Driver and others routinely drove through the construction site at high speed. This was a dangerous condition that should have lead to the closing of the construction area to all but local traffic.
Failure to close the work zone to all but local traffic resulted in high speed traffic going through the work zone and the collision that occurred.
6. DEFICIENCIES in WORK ZONE TRAFFIC CONTROL at the CRASH SITE
It is well established by the depositions  that non-local motorists used Glenwood Avenue as a cut-through and that Driver and others were speeding through the site. Camarato, for example, testified (pages 38 - 59)
- He had been on the job for a couple of months prior to the crash.
- During that time he observed Driver speeding through the job site “a couple times a week anyways”.
- “On one occasion I did stop him, tell him that he was going way too fast for the road conditions.”
- Driver was “…stopped at least three times that I know of.” Once by Camarato and other times by other workers.
- He didn‟t know when the stop occurred, but after the stop he continued to see Driver speeding up and down the area.
- He discussed this with Joe Sklarz before the accident.
- After his discussions with Sklarz, Driver continued to speed up and down the site.
- He observed other guys (than Driver) speeding through the site.
- He thought that the people who sped up and down that site were not local residents, “…because that road‟s a big shortcut.”
- A Local Traffic Only sign was always up, but “People weren‟t paying attention to the local traffic sign.”
Within the bounds of reasonable engineering certainty, and subject to change if additional information becomes available, it is my professional opinion that:
- The collision occurred due to Driver traveling at high speed and the road surface changing from paved to dirt/gravel as a result of construction activity.
- The crash occurred within a long-term construction work site.
- The only construction sign Driver encountered in his approach to the crash site was a Road Work Ahead sign on Horne Street. There were no flagmen on site.
- Glenwood Avenue was used as a “cut through” by non-local traffic, and Driver and others routinely drove through the construction site at high speed.
- The persistent high-speed non-local traffic through the construction site was dangerous to both the construction workers and the traffic.
- Contractor and Engineer were aware of, or should have been aware of, the speeding through traffic prior to the collision, but made no change to the traffic control plan prior to the crash.
- Contractor and Engineer should have taken effective steps to detour the non-local traffic.
- Glenwood Avenue should have been closed to through traffic using provisions shown in TA-20 of the 1988 MUTCD, Revision 3 of 1993.
- Use of devices and signs as shown in TA-20 would have been an effective deterrent to through traffic such as Driver.
- If the devices and signs shown in TA-20 had not proved effective at controlling high speed traffic through the construction site, the local police should have been involved.
- Failure of Contractor and Engineer to employ reasonable and established measures to effectively close Glenwood Avenue to through traffic was not prudent, was contrary to established standards and was a substantial cause of the collision in which Left Rear Passenger was injured.
During the past 25+ years, Lance has provided field investigations, analysis, written reports, deposition and court testimony for several hundred motor vehicle collisions related to roadway, parking lot and transit issues, as well as reconstruction of the collisions. Lance is licensed as a Professional Engineer in several states, and he maintains a number of professional affiliations, including the Transportation Research Board, the Institute of Traffic Engineers, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.