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New roads serve Bakken fields; present danger of truck accidents

The emergency manager for McKenzie County has called for an extensive study of a new section of Highway 85. The North Dakota highway expansion has helped ease the congestion that resulted from the exponential growth the area has undergone since the development of the Bakken oil fields. However, there have been multiple serious collisions, including truck accidents, since the upgrades have opened to traffic.

The most recent accident proved fatal for one driver after he reportedly pulled into the path of one of the large trucks. The trucker's employer has expressed his concerns with the safety of the road conditions, especially in light of the posted speed limits and lack of signal devices. The emergency manager called the state Department of Transportation to request that the agency study what measures could be taken to decrease the numbers of accidents.

There have been three deaths among the several accidents at one particular intersection. However, emergency personnel have claimed that there are miles of the new addition that could be better served by lights and other traffic control devices. The North Dakota DOT has spent three years and an estimated $300 million on more than 40 miles of highway development in the areas around the oil fields.

The DOT said the study will take a few months to complete. It has also indicated that new roads often result in accidents until drivers become familiar with the layout. However, the emergency manager and the trucking company official continue to stress the need for marked improvement in order to ensure the safety of those who are traveling through the area. In the meantime, victims of truck accidents or other collisions are ensured of the right to file a personal injury civil lawsuit (or a wrongful death claim brought by surviving family members in the event of a fatal accident) if negligence on the part of another party -- including governmental agencies in the event of improper road design or maintenance -- can be properly documented by appropriate proof.

Source: bismarcktribune.com, "Emergency manager calls for safety review of Highway 85", Lauren Donovan, Dec. 13, 2014

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