As a Seattle car accident attorney, I am horrified when I see news about an accident like the one that happened yesterday morning in New Orleans. According to KOMOnews.com, two people were killed and sixty-two were injured in a massive car accident that occurred in the predawn hours. Smoke or fog made visibility so bad that some drivers reported that the car in front of them just seemed to disappear. In the middle of this, a collision occurred that turned into a pile-up of more and more cars. The accident involved all kinds of vehicles from passenger cars to semi-trucks. The driver of a pick-up truck and a passenger in another pick-up truck were killed in the wreckage. Pending investigation, local authorities are not saying whether they believe it was smoke or fog that lead to the initial collision.
Whether it was fog or smoke, the visibility issue was beyond the control of the drivers involved, but it points to a larger issue that affects drivers here in western Washington as well as those in New Orleans. When the visibility on the roadway is poor, it is absolutely critical that you slow down. Of course, I wasn’t there, and I can’t say how much warning the drivers had that visibility was about to become a problem. If you see a cloud of smoke or fog ahead of you that you will drive through, please slow down before you get to it. At sixty miles per hour, the distance your car will go from the time you realize you need to stop until you actually stop moving – stopping distance – is well over 200 feet on dry pavement for most cars. If you can’t see 200 feet in front of you, then you need to slow down. 200 feet isn’t very far, but in heavy fog or smoke, 60 miles per hour would be much too fast.
The worst part of this story is obviously the two families that are left to grieve the loss of their own. While no one can say for sure that this accident was totally preventable, certainly it would seem likely that, with more care by drivers in general, the injury and damaged could have been less severe. In the interest of preventing accidents like this, I truly hope that everyone will join me in doing their best to drive carefully, and under control.