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Chain-Reaction Dump Truck Accident on I-280 Highlights Danger of Blind Curves and Importance of State’s “Move Over” Law

On Tuesday, July 30, around 10 a.m., a dump truck traveling east on I-280 in West Orange struck an ambulance and several other vehicles that were stopped due to a previous auto accident, along with three New Jersey State troopers and multiple pedestrians. Seven victims were received at the emergency department of Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, while others were taken to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. State Police reported the injuries to two troopers were “serious but non-life-threatening,” while the third trooper’s injuries were “minor.” The crash involved at least six vehicles, including a State Police SUV and a West Orange fire truck.

According to northjersey.com, “Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver — who is acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy is out of the country on vacation — visited the troopers at University Hospital in Newark.” A statement from the governor’s office reminded the public “of the dangers our first responders can encounter while performing their jobs on our roadways.” The President of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA), Ed Donnelly, released a statement, saying, “all firefighters and state troopers are alive. Some are in very serious condition and will require a long road to recovery.”

The State Troopers Fraternal Association of NJ (STFA) expressed its concerns on July 31 via Twitter. Its tweet warned “we very narrowly missed planning numerous first responder funerals” and included an emoji of praying hands, along with the hashtags #SlowDown and #MoveOver.

New Jersey has a Move Over law that requires drivers approaching the scene of an accident to slow down and move over into an adjacent lane, if it is safe to do so. The law also applies to areas where roadwork is being done. However, the law can only have an effect when the accident scene is visible, and a driver has time to respond. Drivers are not required to make abrupt, unsafe maneuvers to get over.

The I-280 accident occurred between exits 8 and 11, a stretch of roadway known for a long, winding turn with limited forward visibility. Such stretches, which hide road obstructions from view, require drivers to slow down. This is not simply prudent. It’s the law; speed limits below the standard 55 mile per hour are routinely posted.

On this occasion, emergency crews responding to the first crash had the right lane blocked when the dump truck crashed into the scene. Investigators have not speculated on why the truck driver was unable to avoid the accident scene, let alone move over. However, excessive speed may have been an issue.

Finally, it is worth noting that the involved dump truck “was cited for 12 safety violations in two separate inspections just weeks before the crash, according to federal records.” NJ.com reports that “During each of the inspections in June, violations [were] deemed serious enough to force the …dump truck temporarily out of service, according to a public safety database maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.” State Police at the scene of the crash did not issue any citations to the owner/operator of the truck, Edgar Penafiel, 54, of Newark, but there is no doubt the investigation will continue.

At Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers, our personal injury attorneys have represented victims of catastrophic auto accidents throughout New Jersey. We know the anguish victims suffer. We join Gov. Murphy, NJFMBA, and STFA in expressing our appreciation for first responders and urging motorists to observe posted speed limits and move over when approaching accident scenes.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in the Garden State, contact Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers for skilled and determined legal representation.

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