A head-on collision in rural Buckingham County, Virginia (VA), on the morning of May 15, 2017, left both drivers involved dead. The fatal crash happened on Route 15/S. James Madison Highway outside of the town of Dillwyn at around 9:45 am.
State Police investigators determined that the driver of a car caused the deadly wreck by crossing a set of double yellow line on the highway close to the intersection with Willis Mountain Plant Lane. The car then struck a dump truck traveling in the opposite direction.
One investigator told reporters that “despite the dump truck driver’s attempts to avoid the oncoming Pontiac, the two vehicles collided and the dump truck ran off the left side of the highway, went through a guardrail, overturned and struck a tree.”
Both the woman behind the wheel of the car and dump truck operator died from their injuries at the scene. It is not known why the car crossed the center line, but alcohol use has been ruled out as factor. Other explanations could be driver distraction. Speeding or falling asleep at the wheel.
Whatever happened in the seconds before the head-on collision, Virginia law makes it clear that no driver should cross a double yellow line. Section 46.2-804(6) of the state code specifically states that
Wherever a highway is marked with double traffic lines consisting of two immediately adjacent solid yellow lines, no vehicle shall be driven to the left of such lines, except (i) when turning left or (ii) in order to pass a pedestrian or a device moved by human power, including a bicycle, skateboard, or foot-scooter, provided such movement can be made safely.
News reports contain no mentions of a pedestrian or bicycle.
Sadly, cars crossing into the path of oncoming commercial trucks and construction vehicles without legal justification are common occurrences. A Federal Highway Administration study of wrecks involving passenger cars and heavy trucks revealed that “car drivers are … more likely to be assigned a fault factor in head-on crashes, angle crashes, right-turn crashes involving crossing traffic, and left-turn crashes involving vehicles on the crossing road. Although a bias in crash reporting could be responsible for part of this overrepresentation of car driver fault (because the car driver is more likely to be killed in these crashes), car drivers are more likely to be at fault than truck drivers even in the nonfatal cases.”
The family of the dump truck driver who died in Buckingham County should have strong grounds for working with a Virginia wrongful death attorney to file a claim against the insurance policy of the woman who crossed the center line of the highway. Even though the at-fault driver also lost her life as a result of the crash, her insurance will remain in effect until legitimate claims are resolved.