When a bridge collapse in Sealy took the life of a 12-year-old girl and critically injured her mother in July of 2016, multiple questions were raised about the safety of the structure prior to the accident and the actions of a disposal truck driver who struck the bridge. The Sealy bridge collapse was a tragic event, one that did not have to happen.
By looking at the events that preceded the bridge collapse, we might be able to learn how to prevent another such tragedy from occurring. From addressing infrastructure flaws to observing safe driving practices, there are plenty of opportunities to make our roads safer.
What Happened in Sealy?
The driver of a disposal truck, which was used to empty dumpsters, apparently still had his truck’s equipment in the raised position when he collided with the bridge. This caused parts of the bridge to collapse on a car containing a mother and her two children. The investigation which followed the incident was considered a homicide investigation, and the bridge was set to be demolished.
This is not the first time an incident like the one in July occurred near this particular bridge, according to authorities. Apparently the bridge has been struck many times in the past. Again, this raises a number of questions about the design, the placement and the overall structural condition of the bridge itself.
The company that the driver worked for had no history of these sorts of incidents, and their record of inspections seems up to date. Perhaps it was merely the case that this driver made a mistake, which ended up causing one family a terrible tragedy.
The Importance of Infrastructure and Road Safety
What are the lessons that we can learn from this horrible incident? The first lesson is the importance of how our infrastructure, or specifically, our bridges and roads are designed to accommodate the traffic that flows through it. If there were repeated instances in which a truck or vehicle collided with the bridge in Sealy, even though this was an unusual circumstance, then not only should regular inspections be conducted to ensure the stability of the bridge, but the structure itself should be altered or replaced altogether to better accommodate traffic.
The sad reality is that a number of our country’s bridges are sorely lacking when it comes to safety. One out of every nine bridges in the United States has been deemed structurally deficient. Since 1989, there have been over 600 bridge failures in the U.S. Fixing this problem will come with a price tag of approximately $76 billion.
The other lesson that we can learn from the incident in Sealy is that all it takes is one mistake for something to go horribly wrong on our roads. This is especially true for commercial vehicle operators, whose trucks carry the potential for great harm. It’s not yet clear if there were any contributing factors which led to the Sealy truck driver’s mistakes – whether he was fatigued, etc. – but these types of accidents do happen, and they always give us a stark and tragic reminder of what can go wrong when the operator of a large vehicle is negligent.