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Federal Investigators Say California Officials Failed to Repair Highway Barrier Prior to Fatal Tesla Crash


After a fatal crash involving a Tesla in the Bay Area, federal safety regulators recommend that California transportation officials move faster to repair highway safety barriers damaged in collisions. According to a KTLA news report, the National Transportation Safety Board says California officials dialed to repair a Highway 101 safety barrier before the fatal March 2018 collision in Mountain View that killed engineer Walter Huang.

A 2010 Toyota Prius that was traveling too fast and collided with the attenuator, a cushion that prevents cars from striking the ends of the concrete lane dividers, reportedly damaged the barrier 11 days earlier. The 31-year-old driver of the Prius survived the crash and was treated for relatively minor injuries.

The California Highway Patrol responded to the March 12 crash involving the Prius, but did not notify the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) about the damage, as they are required to do, NTSB officials said.

Damaged Highway Barrier

On March 23, Huang’s Tesla Model X was in Autopilot and traveling at 71 mph when it crashed against the same damaged attenuator. Huang did not survive his injuries.

The NTSB stated in its analysis that the “differences between the level of driver injuries in the two March 2018 crashes that took place at this location” demonstrated the safety benefits of a functioning crash attenuator. NTSB is still investigating the cause of the Tesla Autopilot crash.

Despite the investigation still being incomplete, NTSB officials said they moved forward with this recommendation about repairing highway barriers promptly in the interest of motorists’ safety.

The agency issued the recommendation to the California State Transportation Agency, the state agency that provides oversight for the California Department of Transportation, and the California Highway Patrol.

This is not the first time the NTSB has identified similar problems on California’s freeways. It previously identified problems with the maintenance of California highways back in 2016 after a fatal bus crash in San Jose.

The bus crashed against a barrier on Highway 101 that had been damaged 44 days earlier and had not been fixed. Two people died and more than a dozen were injured in that collision. In the 44 days, a retro-reflective marker was not replaced and that missing marker contributed to the fatal bus crash, officials determined.

Importance of Proper Road Maintenance

The NTSB’s findings no doubt demonstrate the importance of good roads regarding traffic safety. Just as we’ve started giving priority to safety features in new cars, priority must also be given to prompt road repairs and fixing dangerous conditions on our highways and freeways that could make the difference between life and death.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a dangerous roadway condition or because of a lack of maintenance by a governmental agency, you may be able to receive compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses you have sustained.

If you have lost a loved one in such a crash, you may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation. An experienced California personal injury law firm with experience handling similar cases successfully will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.


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California Personal Injury Blog