A tractor-trailer operator from Suffolk, Virginia (VA), died after his truck was struck by a car and ran off a rural highway in North Carolina. The deadly head-on collision happened at around 5:45 am on February 9, 2022.
When troopers with the NC Highway Patrol responded to the scene of the crash near the interchanges between U.S. Route 13 and NC-37 in Gates County, they found the truck driver ejected from and pinned under his cab. He did not survive.
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A preliminary investigation determined that the fatal wreck occurred after the driver of a northbound car crossed the center line of U.S. 13. The resulting head-on collision sent the southbound tractor-trailer off the side of the highway and into a ditch. The sudden stop sent the semi-truck operator through the windshield of the cab.
The car’s driver also sustained injuries and was transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for treatment. Investigators could not immediately determine why the car entered the path of the oncoming tractor-trailer. It is unclear if charges will be filed against the surviving driver.
Drivers Must Treat the Center Line as an Essential Safety Barrier
U.S. Route 13 near NC-37 is a two-lane highway. Northbound and southbound vehicles are separated only by painted lines. Changing lanes to pass slower moving cars or trucks or make room for pedestrians and bike riders is permitted long some stretches, but drivers have a legal duty to keep right for the majority of the time.
Section 20-146 of the North Carolina General Statutes lists the following exemptions to the keep-right rule:
- When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;
- When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided, any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;
- Upon a highway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon; or
- Upon a highway designated and signposted for one-way traffic.
Respectively, the third and fourth exemptions relate to the presence of a center turn lane and the reversal of traffic flow for emergencies. Neither of those exemptions applied at the time of the head-on collision in Gates County.
If the car’s driver was attempting to pass or make room, they would have had to move back into their own lane when they saw that colliding with the tractor-trailer was imminent. The car’s driver did not do so, and the results were fatal for an innocent semi truck operator.
That failure to stay their lane is likely to create liability for the car’s driver to settle wrongful death insurance claims. That liability could exist even if no criminal charges result from the Highway Patrol investigation. Consulting with a Virginia wrongful death attorney who has experience handling cases in North Carolina will clarify options for filing insurance claims.