Dripping Water on Schuylkill Expressway – Will There Be a Trickle-Down Effect on Driver Safety?

December 18, 2018

Since August, Pennsylvanians have dealt with higher-than-average precipitation levels across the Commonwealth. Now, drivers on the Schuylkill Expressway have more water to deal with in the form of wet stuff falling on and around their vehicles. But it’s not coming from the skies.

According to a piece pulled together by a Philadelphia NBC news affiliate, some new decking between Market Street and Chestnut Street is causing more than a hassle for travelers. It’s creating the potential for some real concerns, especially when drivers don’t expect a mild or moderate downpour to hit their windshields on sunny days.

Why all the dripping? It’s a manmade flow of moisture needed to cure nearby concrete that’s being laid as part of an $8 million dollar improvement project. To be sure, the dripping water isn’t as bad as it once was, thanks to Mother Nature’s recent temperature dip. However, it could remain problematic until the core cause of the water comes to a close, even if it’s just a trickle at times.

What’s so bad about a little water? A steady stream of droplets can become the springboard for numerous safety issues, not the least of which include:

  • Distracted driving. Each year, distracted drivers are at fault for numerous deaths. In 2016, the annual fatality figure announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was 3,450 from distracted driving alone. Put in perspective, that’s one fatality for about every four lights on the Christmas tree at the Philadelphia Art Museum. When water suddenly hits a car’s windshield or runs into the interior via a sunroof, a driver’s attention can be momentarily taken off the road. A few seconds is all it takes to cause a life-altering car accident.
  • How much water does it take to hydroplane the average vehicle? According to SafeMotorist.com, a lightly wet surface (think one-tenth of an inch, or a little shorter than two stacked pennies) is all it takes for a car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle to skid out of control. Drivers who have balding or under-inflated tires are especially susceptible to hydroplaning, which can quickly lead to serious crashes.
  • Sudden stops. We’ve all experienced the unpleasant feeling of a driver in front of us braking without warning. This is typically a reaction to an unexpected obstacle, such as a deer bounding across the PA Turnpike or a piece of a big rig’s tire in the middle of the lane. Hitting the brakes may be a natural human reaction, but it can lead to major crashes and pile-ups. Anyone who has driven the Schuylkill Expressway knows that drivers rarely follow the one-car-length-for-every-ten-miles rule. Therefore, a sudden stop could turn deadly fast.
  • Black ice. Black ice is a terrifying phenomenon. Until you’re upon it, you don’t know it’s in your path. It’s so bad that in one of the organization’s blog posts the meteorological pros at Accuweather called it the most serious winter driving danger. Although the water trickling on to portions of I-76 may not build up much–and hopefully it will wane as we go further into the winter months–it could freeze in spots. It doesn’t take much for black ice to send a vehicle out of control, potentially leading to a collision with cars in adjacent lanes.

The good news is that the water issue won’t last forever on the Schuylkill Expressway; the project will eventually end. However, it’s still a messy nuisance–and quite possibly a hazard–drivers should beware of before traveling along the highway.

To PennDOT’s credit, road signs have been posted to give vehicle operators the heads-up regarding water and construction. Still, it’s best for all teens and adults behind the wheel to drive defensively even if they don’t see a warning sign in sight. If they do skid, slide, or collide as a result of this affected stretch of roadway, they may want to talk to an attorney. It’s always best to get a lawyer’s opinion in gray areas surrounding car crashes, especially where government highway construction is concerned.

Think you might have a personal injury case? Talk to a knowledgeable lawyer at Wapner Newman in Philadelphia. Your initial consultation will be free.