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Gravel sends two vehicles crashing on PennDOT-repaired street

Sometimes the harm done in accidents has nothing to do with a driver's abilities or behaviors. Poor road conditions can also contribute to Pennsylvania car accidents involving serious injuries and sometimes death.

A road in the eastern part of the state was targeted for a late summer Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project. Chips sealant, PennDOT's term for a mixture of gravel and oil, was applied. "Loose gravel" signs were set in place.

Two vehicle accidents occurred on the same repaired street.

A motorcyclist wrecked on Sept. 13, according to state troopers in Fogelsville. The 50-year-old bike operator said he lost control after hitting a patch of gravel. The motorcycle slid and flipped around over a 150-foot stretch before striking a culvert and coming to a stop in a grassy area.

A few minor, untreated injuries resulted. The investigating officer cited roadway conditions in a report and did not ticket the motorcyclist.

During the afternoon of the next day, a 16-year-old car driver crashed. The teen's car slid into a rock pile. The collision tossed the vehicle into more rocks and, eventually, a utility pole. The unhurt teen was charged with failure to stay in his lane.

Transportation officials say roads treated with sealant are later cleaned by street sweepers. Orange signs are meant to caution motorists to reduce speeds. Accident reports did not include speeding citations or information about posted speeds.

PennDOT's work ethic might have been called into question in a liability or wrongful death lawsuit, if the motorists had been seriously hurt or died in those crashes. The signs that were posted did not block traffic or indicate how fast a driver could go to remain safe. Project cleanup could have executed poorly, endangering motorists at any speed.

Transportation officials did make sure the orange signs were still on the street following the accidents, but PennDOT did not send any crews to the area to sweep it a second time.

Source: emmaus.patch.com, "Loose Gravel, Speed Combine to Cause Accidents," Tad Miller, Sept. 20, 2012

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