On August 3, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind), two of her staffers, and a separate driver were killed in a car crash in Indiana. Reports from the scene first stated that the accident occurred when one vehicle crossed the center line and struck the RAV 4 in which Walorski was a passenger. However, a few days later, these reports were corrected to say that the RAV 4 was actually the vehicle to cross the center line.
Per the South Bend Tribune, "The information from the preliminary investigation at the scene, as to the direction of travel of the vehicles, was not correct," a release from Elkhart county police states, adding that authorities became aware of eyewitnesses and video evidence that contradicted the initial report.
The Tribune also notes that authorities are unaware as to why the vehicle crossed over the center line, and that the fatal accident occurred “just south of the roundabout where Indiana 19 connects with Indiana 119.”
Although investigators may need much more time to find out why the RAV 4 crossed the center line and struck an oncoming vehicle (and honestly, they may never know), one thing we do know is that head-on collisions and accidents are always serious and often deadly. Four people tragically lost their lives in this particular car crash, and multiple families are in mourning as a result.
So today, we want to talk a bit about lane departure accidents – what the common causes are, what can be done to avoid them – so that you may be better prepared the next time you take to the road.
Common reasons drivers cross the center line
As we already know, car crashes happen for many, many reasons. Some of the reasons drivers may cross the center line or depart from their lanes include:
- Driving under the influence. Because intoxication can affect a person’s judgment, driving while drunk or drugged can make it difficult to stay in one lane. Police officers often look for “weaving” as a sign of drunk driving.
- Distracted driving. When a driver takes their focus off the road – cognitively, manually, or visually – they run the risk of drifting or veering out of their lane and potentially causing a serious accident. Many experts liken the dangers of distracted driving to drunk driving.
- Drowsy driving. Driving while fatigued is also extremely dangerous and puts a driver at risk for drifting, veering, or crossing the center line – especially if they “zone out” or nod off behind the wheel.
Unfortunately today there’s no way to help us avoid car accidents and injuries altogether – and we really wish there were – is there any way to mitigate the dangers and risks of these types of head-on collision accidents?
Avoiding lane departure accidents
Many of today’s new vehicles feature lane departure warning systems (LDWs), which per Consumer Reports, “provide visual, audible, and/or tactile warnings—such as through steering wheel or seat vibrations—to alert the driver when the car approaches or crosses lane markings.”
However, the publication also reports that the “systems are only as good as the lines on the road, and they can become confused by multiple markings painted during road construction, lane lines that are faded or covered by snow, markings that suddenly disappear or merge as lanes come together, or if the camera lens is blinded by direct sunlight.”
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) also notes several infrastructure improvements to help reduce the risk of roadway departure crashes, which include:
- Keeping vehicles on the road and in their lanes, through the use of rumble strips, delineation, and surface treatments
- Reducing the potential for severe crashes when vehicles do leave their lanes or the road, including shoulder installation, more space between opposing lanes, and removing fixed objects
- Minimize the severity of crashes if they occur, by installing breakaway supports, guardrail barriers, and end treatments
And, because it’s always worth repeating, the FHA reminds us: “Seatbelts have been proven to save lives, yet the percentage of use—especially in rural areas—remains very low in some parts of the country. Education and enforcement can help increase seatbelt use, which in turn can reduce the severity of crashes when they occur.”
After Rep. Walorski’s death, House Speaker Pelosi released a statement reading in part, “[Walorski] passionately brought the voices of her north Indiana constituents to the Congress, and she was admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness."
We hope the investigation helps shed some light on just what happened, so that her family – and the families of the other victims – can find some peace.
Gainsberg Law has served Chicagoland for decades, and our experienced car accident attorneys are here when you need us. To schedule a free consultation, call 312-600-9585 or use our contact page today.