Following Too Closely Results in Serious Collision
On a late spring day in the Pacific Northwest, two pickups loaded with ATVs were traveling down a major haul road at the end of the day. Dry weather had resulted in dusty road surface conditions.
The drivers’ experience and training were unknown.
Unsafe Acts and Conditions
The trucks were traveling together. The lead truck was stirring up considerable dust, making it difficult for trailing vehicles to see. The dust and a crest of a hill in the road severely limited visibility. Spring road maintenance work had created a large depression in the road surface.
The first truck came over the crest of a hill and saw a large depression in the road, slammed on the brakes, but still hit the depression hard. The driver slowed down to assess if the straps had loosened on the ATV from the impact, but there was no safe place to pull over. The second driver was a few minutes behind. As they came over the crest of the hill, they could see brake lights in very thick dust and tried to stop but rear-ended the first truck, causing significant damage.
The driver of the second truck cut their hand when the glass blew out. Fortunately, injuries were not more serious.
Recommendations for Corrections
- Leave a safe margin of distance between vehicles. Factors to consider:
- The dust and the crest of the hill limited visibility on a narrow road;
- If you are traveling downhill;
- Rough road conditions;
- Extra weight of ATV affects braking distance.
- Slow down to reduce collision potential and give yourself enough time to react.
- If dust is extremely bad, immediately pull over and stop until visibility has cleared. Look for a turnout or wide spot.
- Drive with headlights and taillights on.
- Let others know by calling on the radio if you encounter a hazard or plan to slow down / pull over, especially in dusty conditions.
Figure 1: Following Too Closely