Two people died and a Good Samaritan suffered severe burns after a pickup truck slammed into the back of a car stopped at a red light in Fauquier County, Virginia (VA). A third driver went to the hospital with serious injuries in the incident, which became a chain reaction when the pickup knocked the car out of its way and continued forward.
The deadly crash happened at the intersection of U.S. 29/James Madison Highway and Freemans Ford Road at 7:29 am on June 12, 2017. The initial rear-end collision caused the car to catch fire, and the driver and passenger in the burning car died at the scene despite the efforts of a witness who rushed forward and attempted to pull them from the wreckage.
Law enforcement officials did not immediately file charges against the man driving the pickup. The intersection is known to be dangerous, but it was not clear what prevented the at-fault driver from slowing down and stopping in time to avoid rear-ending the car and the second vehicle.
Online publication Fauquier Now noted in its report on the June 12 fatalities that on the day after Thanksgiving 2016, a 5-year-old lost his life in a crash at the U.S. 29-Freemans Ford intersection. Due in part to that tragedy, the Virginia Department of Transportation flagged making safety improvements to the intersection as a priority in a March 20, 2017, report.
Even when upgrades get made, drivers approaching the intersection will need to remain alert and exercise caution. A poll of traffic safety experts cited in a Federal Highway Administration study subtitled An Examination of Fault, Unsafe Driving Acts, and Total Harm in Car-Truck Collisions revealed that the seven most-frequent driver errors are
- Driving inattentively (e.g., reading, talking on the phone, fatigue-induced)
- Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly
- Failure to stop for a stop sign or light (also, early or late through a signal)
- Failure to slow down in a construction zone
- Unsafe speed (e.g., approaching too fast from the rear/misjudging truck's speed)
- Following too closely
- Failure to slow down in response to environmental conditions (e.g., fog, rain, smoke, bright sun)
Automatic braking systems promised for all U.S. vehicles produced after 2017 may limit the injury and death tolls from such negligent and reckless actions, but drivers will still be responsible for keeping themselves and others on the road healthy and alive. Drivers who fail to meet those responsibilities should be held accountable for compensating and paying damages to the individuals they harm. The people injured in this Fauquier County crash, and the family members of the innocent people who got killed, should consider consulting a Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney to learn how they can make sure that happens.