November 04, 2007

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- The driver of a Lincoln Navigator whose trailer came loose on the Bay Bridge in May was "solely at fault" for the deadly multivehicle crash that resulted, according to a police investigation, but prosecutors have decided that they have no grounds for charging him with any traffic offenses.

Three Eastern Shore men died in the seven-vehicle collision May 10, which closed the westbound span of the bridge well into the night and backed up traffic for miles. A report released by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police concluded that there was no evidence that the driver of the Navigator, Stephen A. Burt of Rockville, had used a safety hitch pin to secure the single-axle trailer to his vehicle. Without that pin to hold the latch lever in place, the trailer came loose as it bounced on the westbound span of the bridge, according to the report.

Investigators also determined that the chains used to pull the trailer were too long, allowing the front of the trailer to hit the ground.

Nevertheless, the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office concluded that "no current regulations exist" that would justify charges in the case.

Should the state more clearly define its laws on trailer hitches, or should this crash be considered a tragic fluke?

Government failed on trailer regulation

I simply can't believe that you can kill three people and no charges are filed against you. I've been keeping track of accidents caused by utility trailers and my findings are startling. Here are some facts you should know:

Some 57,000 crashes involving passenger vehicles towing trailers occur annually, according to a five-year average of accident analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. In 2003, accidents with trailing vehicles resulted in 364 deaths, 14,484 injuries and 40,080 instances of property damage. Both the number of deaths and property damage increased in 2003 from the previous year.

My Web site is www.dangeroustrailers.com, and some articles are at dangeroustrailers.blogspot.com.

I just can't believe a manufactured product can cause so much damage. In this case, I can't believe we let anybody make a trailer without checking to see what they made is roadworthy.

This was not an accident. This was a complete failure of our government to oversee the safety of our roadways. The driver's actions are no different than taking a gun and shooting these three people. Instead he used a utility trailer.

Ron J. Melancon Glen Allen, Va.

Consequences are a must for misuse

To consider the Bay Bridge accident a "tragic fluke" would be as insane as the person who was operating the vehicle.

There should be laws that state that "the operator of a motor vehicle who intentionally ignores the manufacturer's operating instructions and fails to operate the vehicle accordingly will be held liable." Permanent forfeiture of the operator's driving permit would also be in order.

Al Morris Glen Burnie

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