The interchange between Highway 123 and Highway 124 in the Pickens County, South Carolina (SC), community of Easley was the site of an all-too-common type of left-turn crash that took the life of an innocent motorcycle rider. This deadly wreck is being blamed on the driver of a box truck who was towing a trailer while trying to cross the two southbound lanes of 123/Calhoun Memorial Highway at 8:10 am on June 18, 2017.
The motorcyclist was wearing a helmet, but he died at the scene from blunt force trauma injuries he suffered after getting ejected from his bike. Neither of the two people in the truck got hurt.
Police have charged the man behind the wheel of the box truck with failure to yield right of way. Additional charges, such as one for causing a death while operating a motor vehicle, may follow when crash investigators complete their work. The current alleged violation follows from section 56-5-2330(c) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, which states
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall in obedience to such sign slow down to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions and, if required for safety to stop, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line but, if none, before entering the cross-walk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting road before entering it. After slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways. If such driver is involved in a collision with a vehicle in the intersection or junction of roadways, after driving past a yield sign without stopping, the collision shall be deemed prima facie evidence of his failure to yield right-of-way.
Factors that may have contributed to causing this deadly left-turn crash include its location, the general difficulty drivers have in spotting motorcycles, and the tow trailer. Getting onto 124/Old Easley Highway from northbound 123 requires crossing two lanes of traffic traveling at a posted speed limit of 55 mph. Turning drivers generally have to stop at the yield sign, then make sure they have the time and distance needed to clear the southbound lanes safely.
Even if the box truck driver recognized the approaching motorcycle as a crash risk, he may have overestimated his ability to get across to 124 without endangering the rider. A tow trailer adds weight and length to any vehicle, couple those complications to the slow acceleration of a box truck, and the driver would need consider space to turn safely.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I urge all driver to take make an extra effort to spot motorcycles, to take extra time at stop lights and yield signs, and to err always on the side of caution when changing lanes, turning, or merging onto an highway when motorcycles are nearby.