Line-of-Sight Car Accidents

Obstacles Blocking Vision Can Cause Line-of-Sight Accidents

Everyone who has ever driven an automobile has encountered line-of-sight problems. Sometimes it is as simple as topping a hill – until you reach the crest, you can’t see what is on the other side. Other obstructions blocking vision can include curves in the roadway, tree branches, signs, bushes or hedges, and even parked vehicles. Generally, these obstructions are relatively easy to deal with. This is not always the case though. If something obstructs your view of a stop sign, tree branches, for instance, and you don’t stop, the consequences can be significant.

Line-of-sight obstructions can significantly affect traffic flow. Many drivers have run into stop-and-go traffic approaching a hill or a curve and wondered what sort of accident just out of sight must be causing the delays, only to find that, upon moving past the hill or curve or whatever the vision obstruction was, traffic is flowing freely again and there is no accident or other traffic jam-causing incident.

Road Design Experts Have a Name for This

The engineers who design roads worry constantly about the line of sight or sight distance. In fact, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which largely oversees the design of roads throughout the country, have established guidelines governing “line of sight” issues. These guidelines set forth what is known as Decision Sight Distance, or DSD. DSD is defined as the distance of unobstructed sight necessary to recognize an upcoming obstacle or another hazard, assess that obstacle and safely execute a maneuver to avoid that obstacle or hazard. The generally accepted time for the “average” driver to complete this sequence is 2.5 seconds, meaning that the driver needs to be able to see an obstacle or hazard 2.5 seconds – based on the rated speed limit for that road – before encountering an obstacle or hazard, whether that is a curve in the road, stopped traffic or some other roadway hazard.

Road Designs are Required to Provide Adequate Lines of Sight

Since 1940, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has defined acceptable limits for stopping, passing, and intersection sight distances. The distances are based on how much distance drivers need to safely react to situations ahead of them on the roadway. Speed limits are a factor, and the standards take into account avoiding obstructions such as trees and bushes, buildings and walls, embankments and other similar objects that can obstruct views. These and other factors are combined to calculate the Sight Stopping Distance, or SSD, which is defined as the “sight distance of sufficient length in which drivers can control the speed of their vehicles so as to avoid striking an unexpected obstacle on the traveled way.” The idea is to design roads so that drivers will be able to see far enough ahead to properly react to unexpected obstacles on the road before them.

Obviously, this can get tricky, particularly when the obstructions to a driver’s line of sight are transient variables such as tree branches or other foliage, parked or temporarily stopped trucks or buses that obstruct important views, or other such obstacles that simply weren’t there when the road was designed. Many other uncontrollable or unquantifiable factors can contribute to accident causation, as well. These factors can include:

  • Driver performance, including reaction time;
  • Vehicle capabilities such as braking ability; and
  • Driver attentiveness.

The best road designs can be foiled by many factors that result in unintended blockages of sight lines. Vegetation, signs, other vehicles, even buildings that were built after the road was designed all can contribute to blocking lines of sight. Sometimes, these blockages can result in accidents. If another party’s negligence blocked your ability to properly view the road ahead, that negligence may entitle you to recover damages.

If You Have Been Injured in a Line-of-Sight Accident in the Miami area, Contact the Personal Injury Attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz

If you have been involved in a line-of-sight accident in the Miami area, you should consult an attorney to determine what your rights are. It is possible you can recover for your damages.

The attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz can assist you in protecting your rights when you are involved in such an accident. You can reach us at (877) 475-2905 or through our website.

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