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Rhode Island car accident deaths spark new bridge safety measures

Karns & Kerrison

In the aftermath of two recent fatal head-on collisions, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) sparked renewed interest in making the Newport Pell Bridge safer for travelers. The two separate fatal accidents are believed to have been caused, in part, by the lack of a center or dividing median on the bridge. These future safety measures could lower a driver's odds of being in a car accident and thus prevent families from losing loved ones.

The new plan involves the use of reflective, plastic lane separators that will serve as an interim solution until the RITBA can find a safer and more permanent option. The RITBA also plans to install a series of speed cameras and to increase police presence along the bridge. An awareness campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of being distracted while driving was mentioned as well.

Every Rhode Island driver is responsible for exercising caution and paying attention to his or her surrounding while driving. However, some roads, bridges and intersections tend to be more dangerous by their design. Even the most diligent of drivers shoulder increased risk when they traverse an unsafe stretch of road. On these occasions, at least some of the responsibility for the safety of drivers and their passengers may shift to local and state government.

When local and state government refuses or delays taking such responsibility, it may be held liable for damages incurred in the event of a car accident. In the two fatal crashes that rekindled this debate, each victim's family may be entitled to file a wrongful death civil suit against both the government and the driver deemed responsible for the crash. Whether or not they ultimately receive compensation for their pain and suffering would be at a court's discretion.

Source:, Authority takes steps to improve bridge safety, Jeff McDonough, Jan. 23, 2014


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