According to news reports, on July 16, Alachua County emergency personnel responded to a call that a vehicle plunged off I-75 into Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The eight occupants of the vehicle climbed out and sat on the roof, as four feet of muddy swamp water surrounded them. Authorities helped them climb to safety using a fire truck ladder, and the victims received treatment for injuries at UF Health Shands Hospital. Thankfully, no one suffered life-threatening injuries.
A car driving off the road into a swamp may seem like interesting news to most, however, authorities in Gainesville have heard this one before. The Gainesville Sun report also stated that “several” vehicles drove off either I-75 or U.S. 441 into the waters of Paynes Prairie in the last two years. Three people did not survive as their vehicles became submerged in the swamp water. In addition, the dark water is dangerous in itself, and motorists stuck in the swamp may not survive if they tried to swim out on their own.
After numerous accidents and three deaths, one glaring question exists: why has the government not taken action to address the dangers of this area of road? While officials previously suggested that the town should install guard rails to keep cars from leaving the road, the district office of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) only recently sent a funding request to the Tallahassee headquarters. A spokesperson said it could take two months for a decision and they “don’t know” where funding might come from.
Transportation agencies have the duty to design and maintain roads that are safe for motorists to use. This includes:
- Inspecting roads on a regular basis and addressing possible hazards
- Ensuring speed limits are appropriate on each road
- Warning motorists of possible risks, such as sharp turns or blind intersections
- Installing proper lane markers and signage
The FDOT received information regarding the numerous accidents on a single stretch of road by Paynes Prairie and suggestions for improvements, yet the road remains unsafe. When the government learns of a possible safety hazard—or a proven one—it should take the steps necessary to increase safety. This may include warning signs, lowering speed limits, or—in this case—installing guardrails.
When the government fails to take necessary precautions to keep roads safe and motorists suffer injuries, that agency should be accountable. While possible, injury claims against the government differ significantly from other types of personal injury claims, so you need a skilled attorney handling your case. Time is short in these situations and you should not delay in seeking legal assistance.
Contact Our Gainesville Car Accident Attorneys to Discuss Your Rights
At Meldon Law, we know that car accidents and injuries can happen in many different ways. We help our clients seek compensation from many types of liable parties, including individuals, companies, or government agencies. If you suffered injuries in a crash, please call (352) 373-8000 or contact us online for a free consultation today.