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My brother died in a car crash. He was a restrained front-seat passenger in a Corvette, driven by his friend. His friend hit a puddle, lost control and spun off a Washington State road … backward into a bridge abutment. The car burst into flames. The rest is history.

My brother didn’t need to die. If that road had been correctly designed, his vehicle would have slid to a stop, beaten up, but intact. He should have walked away.

In Alaska, vehicles aren’t supposed to leave the road when drivers lose control. “Loss of Control” situations are common – they are expected. Road designers absolutely know that some drivers will lose control of their vehicles while driving on Alaskan roads. This is why Alaska is supposed to design its roads to keep out-of-control vehicle on the road. The well-accepted logic is that out-of-control vehicles remaining on roadways are far safer than those encountering obstacles (trees, cliffs, etc.) adjacent to the road. There are simple and consistent rules for roadway design. When followed, they save lives.

This is why it makes sense to investigate single-car crashes where a vehicle left the road, injuring or killing occupants. This is true even if the driver lost control – because “loss of control” is absolutely expected by road designers. We are seeing more and more bad roadway design. Bad engineering needs to get fixed. Sometimes, the only way to compel safe design is to hold bad designers accountable. Nobody likes using litigation threats to keep designers honest – but it works. Sometimes, a litigation threat is all we have to ensure that your spouse, child, parent gets home alive.

I encourage those who have been injured when a car they occupied exited the roadway to have it fully investigated. Talk to a qualified Accident Reconstruction (AR) expert. Talk to a qualified attorney who does this type of work. Be careful in talking to insurance adjusters, police and others who think: “Accidents Happen.” Indeed, accidents do happen, they are really do. At the same time, our goal is to ensure that nobody gets hurt in an accident.

The roads are slippery. Winter is in full tilt. Slow down and drive safely out there.

/s/ Ward Merdes

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