A roaming black bear was reportedly the catalyst for a five-car crash resulting in the death of three good Samaritans and injuries to four others. Authorities report a group of duck hunters from Miami-Dade stopped to help a motorist whose vehicle was rendered disabled after a collision with a 430-pound black bear on Interstate 75 in Seminole.
As they were pulled over, a passing sport utility vehicle sideswiped one of the pickup trucks and then rolled over several times, striking several of the helpers and other vehicle as well.
Those killed – ages 43, 44 and 46 – were pronounced dead at the scene. At least two others suffered injuries classified as critical.
Our Fort Lauderdale accident lawyers know that while accidents involving bears in South Florida have increased in recent years, they are still relatively rare, with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reporting 232 bears killed statewide by vehicles in 2013, compared to 43 bear deaths in 1993.
What is not as rare is for people to be injured or killed while their vehicle is disabled at the side of the highway, or while assisting someone whose vehicle is disabled.
Typically, investigating authorities will fault the driver of the rear-ending vehicle, finding the car or truck was traveling too fast for conditions or followed too closely behind. This is often true even at night and when disabled vehicles don’t have their lights on – or when those involved are standing behind the lights, blocking them from oncoming traffic.
Cases like this underscore the importance of driving at reasonable speeds, maintaining a safe vehicle distance and paying attention to the road at all times. Each of these actions provides drivers with more reaction time when they encounter some unexpected roadway hazard – such as a disabled vehicle.
With travel industry experts anticipating a record year for roadway trips this December (gas prices are down and the economy is improving), it’s important that all motorists understand the risks involved in stopping to help a disabled vehicle. Unless you are certain you can do so safely, it’s better to call for authorities to assist the stranded motorist.
One should never assume drivers of other vehicles can see you – and this should be a top priority. That means making the vehicle as conspicuous and visible as possible. Flares or reflective triangles can boost visibility, as can emergency flashers or even an interior dome light.
Disabled vehicle drivers should also raise their hood and consider tying something white to the antennae or out the window to alert fellow motorists and safety officials they need help.
Those who stop to help should never try to walk across multiple lanes of high-speed highway traffic. When exiting vehicles, do so on the side away from traffic. If your car is broken down and you find yourself walking to a nearby gas station, if possible use guardrails as protection between yourself and traffic while you walk.
While motorists may not always be able to anticipate the occasional black bear encounter on the roadway, they can make sure their vehicle is in top shape, particularly when preparing for a road trip. Doing so will reduce the chances of your becoming stranded on the highway.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Victims of crash involving black bear identified, Dec. 8, 2014, Sun-Sentinel
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Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli – Florida Umbrella Insurance Disputes, Dec. 9, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog