Situational Awareness

Janice Monroe had been a professional driver for 15 years and never had an accident…

It was very early morning when she arrived at the dealership. She pulled safely off the roadway, well into the right shoulder, and completed her delivery. The sun was barely over the horizon when Janice finished, but it was bright. Since she was parked on the shoulder, she did not look at the traffic passing beside her as she secured the lift at the rear of the trailer. Janice heard the screeching tires but never saw the vehicle that hit her, pinning her between the trailer and the car that struck her. The teenager driving the car did not see Janice since the sun was shining in his eyes. He only saw the truck a few seconds before impact, and barely had any time to hit the brakes.

Janice sustained multiple fractures to her legs, pelvis, spine, and skull, as well as significant ligament and soft tissue injuries. She underwent more than 15 surgeries and the doctors were able to save both legs. Janice was kept in the ICU for two weeks and was released from the hospital five weeks after the accident. She continued therapy for over two years before the doctors advised she was as well as she was going to get. However, Janice would have to live with ongoing pain and difficulties doing ordinary tasks.

Although the driver that hit Janice had liability limits of $100,000, the medical bills alone far exceeded $500,000. Due to the extreme severity of her injuries, the at-fault driver’s liability policy was exhausted immediately. Workers Compensation paid over $500,000 in medical bills and lost wages, with another $300,000 in anticipated payments. The underinsured motorist policy of $1,000,000 that Janice’s company maintained also will be exhausted when it is over.

Lessons Learned:

Without a doubt, this accident was caused by the teenage driver who veered onto the shoulder. Janice thought she was safe to walk behind her vehicle without being concerned about the passing traffic. However, Janice might have been able to avoid being injured by maintaining her situational awareness. Being more conscientious of the passing traffic and recognizing the bright sun as possible dangers may have prevented her role in the accident. Remember, being a defensive driver means being defensive both inside and outside of your vehicle while you are on the road. It will not only prevent expensive insurance claims, but it will keep you and the other motorists safe.