On Oct. 1, the state's new Quick Clearance Act became law. When damage is minor and no one is hurt, it is legal now to move the wreckage out of the road.
"We need to let them know, [if they have] less than $1,000 in damage and no injuries, they can simply pull the vehicle to the shoulder and they're not going to be in any trouble," said Sgt. Everett Clendenin, of the state's Highway Patrol.
Earlier in November, two cars crashed on westbound Interstate 40 near Miami Boulevard at 7:33 a.m. The wreckage, which blocked a lane, sat in the road for two hours during the morning rush. The ensuing backup stretched for miles. Each car received just under $4,000 worth of damage. Despite the new law and a lot of angry commuters, Durham police did nothing wrong under the new Quick Clearance Act.
The state Department of Transportation admits many crashes cannot be helped by the new law, but engineers say it still has merit.
"We obviously don't have the money to continually widen roads. This just makes the road more efficient," DOT engineer Roberto Canales said.
Officials are using a device called the "push bar" to clear wreckage off the interstate and onto the shoulder. The Highway Patrol is testing six of the devices. Most of the test units are deployed near the coast. Police agencies say they do not track minor collisions, so tracking the impact of the Quick Clearance Act will not be easy.
Insurance agents say drivers should be cautious when moving wrecks. They say even in a minor crash, people disagree about the chain of events. Third-party witnesses can be a big help when deciding liability.
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