In October 2015, a 30-year-old woman involved in a horrific motorcycle accident on I-95 in Miami lost half her leg. Her friend, another female motorcyclist who was riding alongside, was also seriously injured when the two were struck by a Toyota Corolla whose driver barreled through a gap in the orange pylons.
Now, both women have filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation and DBI Services (the contractor that maintains the lanes) as well as the allegedly negligent driver.
The plaintiff whose leg had to be amputated just above her knee also needed hip surgery. Both motorcycles were destroyed. An attorney representing both women alleges FDOT and DBI have a duty to maintain the roadways properly for the safety of all motorists. However, he alleges defendants breached this duty with regard to the express lanes, where this crash occurred, resulting in a situation that is both extremely and unnecessarily dangerous for drivers. In particular, the delineator poles, which are supposed to keep drivers in their respective lanes, are not properly maintained. This means motorists are weaving in and out of lanes of extremely fast-moving traffic. This, plaintiffs allege, was the direct and proximate cause of their injuries.
The Miami New Times reported neither FDOT nor DBI responded to a request for comment on the pending litigation, which is fairly typical in pre-trial stages.
What is also apparently fairly common are complaints against these agencies concerning these express lane poles. In fact, the express lanes have been the topic of controversy since traffic engineers first installed them in 2009. Some note they lack any kind of proper shoulder, and the only separation between them and the rest of highway traffic are plastic barriers. These can be – and sometimes are – driven right over with ease.
Drivers who enter the lanes are required to have a transponder from SunPass, which during rush hour can result in tolls of up to $10. The purpose of the express lanes is to keep the traffic moving at a steady clip and alleviate backups and jams. However, as many traffic experts have pointed out, the barriers aren’t actually doing that job. Instead, they simply make it costlier to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Others note that the porous plastic barriers and the fees create a situation that tempts some drivers to “lane dive.” This is when people try to slip into the express lanes illegally by driving through gaps in the pylons. But of course, as this motorcycle accident shows, that can lead to major crashes when drivers already in the express lanes don’t anticipate someone unexpectedly shoot into their lane.
There have been a number of suggestions, ranging from the erection of concrete barriers to the express lanes to just scrapping these lanes altogether. A bill currently on the table to get rid of the express lanes indicates there have been 12,000 car accidents reported in those lanes in just the last three years. This indicates the lanes are not safe, they aren’t efficient and result in an unnecessary burden to drivers and taxpayers.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
I-95 Express Lanes Are Poorly Maintained Death Traps, Alleges Motorcyclist Who Lost Leg, Feb. 14, 2017, By Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times
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Link v. FirstEnergy Corp. – Utility Company Not Liable for Motorcycle Crash, Aug. 3, 2016, Florida Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Blog