Local News

DOT Lobbying Lawmakers To Change How State Clears Road Wreckage

Posted May 3, 2002

— The tractor-trailer wreck that tied up Interstate 40 for six hours last month could lead to a change in North Carolina law.

The state Department of Transportation has started lobbying legislators in an effort to change the way state crews clear wreckage from the roads.

"The people out there in the field doing work in the heat of battle don't really have the authority or freedom to go out and push the vehicle aside," state construction engineer Roberto Canales said. "There are liability issues with the cost of the vehicle and the cost of the materials in the vehicle."

Under North Carolina law, the state could be held liable if the wrecked truck, or its contents were damaged further by pushing it out of the way. Crews had to wait for the right kind of wrecker to move the wreck without opening up the state to a lawsuit.

Other states such as Texas, Maryland and Virginia have more flexibility. They have legislation that allows them to clear the road first.

"The states around us do have more flexibility. They have legislation that allows them to clear the road first -- states like Texas, Maryland and Virginia. These are issues we need to address and we're trying to work towards," Canales said.

DOT officials said there are changes they can make without a new law. The changes would including make safety the first priority, opening the road second and worry about protecting the wreckage third. They are talking with the General Assembly to come up with a solution.

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