Running off the right side of the highway in Nash County, North Carolina (NC), set the stage for a fatal crash on the morning of January 25, 2018. The incident started with a car’s driver losing control of her vehicle and ended with an armored truck overturning and slamming into a stand of trees.
County sheriff personnel and State Highway Patrol troopers responded at 7:05 am to reports of the crash in the westbound lanes of U.S. 264 about a mile east of Bailey. They determined that the woman behind the wheel of the car had left her lane, entered the shoulder and overcorrected her steering in an attempt to return all four wheels to the pavement.
Oversteering caused her to sideswipe the armored truck, whose driver then lost control himself. The truck rolled and slid until it hit the trees. The 46-year-old in the truck died from his injuries at the scene despite wearing a seat belt.
The woman driving the car now faces a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. Alleging the offense under section 20-141.4(a2) of the North Carolina General Statutes indicates that law enforcement officers gathered evidence that the woman unintentionally caused the deadly wreck while committing a traffic violation and was not impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time.
News reports do not offer details about why the woman ran out of her travel lane in the first place. It is clear from public accounts, however, that her oversteering created the risk to the truck driver’s life. The scenario was explained well in a report on the need to upgrade grassy shoulders like the one along U.S. 264 in Nash County that was published in the September/October 2007 issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s journal Public Road.
“Studies show that when a driver encounters a steep pavement edge,” the author wrote, “he or she attempts to return immediately to the paved travel lane but in doing so tends to oversteer, causing intense rubbing, or ‘scrubbing,’ of vehicle tires against the pavement edge, which initially prevents the vehicle from climbing back onto the pavement. This oversteering can cause loss of control at the moment when the right rear tire climbs back onto the pavement, causing the vehicle to fishtail or go into a broadside skid.”
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family members of the Nash County man who lost his life as a result of this sideswipe collision. We urge all drivers who find themselves in a situation where some of their vehicle’s wheels have left the pavement to remain calm and to attempt to return to the flow of traffic only after they have fully regained control.