Few regulations in place for road closings

The horrific pileup crash that occurred in Florida recently raised many questions. How could such a crash have happened? If visibility was so bad, why had the roads re-opened? And what regulations exist regarding road closures?

Surprisingly, not many. Eleven people were killed in the deadly car accident late last month. The road had been closed for three hours due to foggy conditions, which were made even worse by nearby smoke. For some reason, authorities deemed the road to be safe and re-opened the interstate. That’s when the tragic accident occurred.

According to a CBS News article, it is often left up to local officials to determine when a road should be closed. There have never been guidelines issued by federal transportation agencies as to when roads should be closed due to dust storms, heavy fog or fires.

Florida, which is prone to potentially smoky roads, actually has a 16-item checklist, part of a 28-page policy manual for shift commanders of the Florida Highway Patrol, relating to “smoke/fog incidents,” CBS says.

Some states rely on the authority of a single state trooper at a scene to determine whether a road should be closed or stay open. Some authorities partner with engineers and the National Weather Service to make such decisions.

In any case, something went wrong when authorities decided to reopen Interstate 75 that recent morning. Why the road was re-opened may never be truly understood. Hopefully authorities will take a closer look in the future to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

Source: CBS News, “Few guidelines exist on when to shut down roads,” Feb. 1, 2012