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Steep hills are dangerous for tractor trailers. If truckers aren’t mindful of their speed while traveling down a steep grade, they could experience brake failure and/or lose control of the rig.

A tractor-trailer hauling steel beams slammed into the side of a church after apparently losing its brakes while making a steep descent on a road in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The semi crashed through the side of the 171-year-old church, destroying the entire entry and belfry in addition to the northern wall. Fortunately, no one was in the church at the time. The truck driver was taken to a local medical center for treatment of minor injuries. No one else was injured.

According to officials, this is the fourth truck that has crashed into or near the church, the most recent incident last year. One church-goer said that truck don’t lower their speed or downshift when coming down the hill, causing them to lose control.

Even if the investigation reveals that the semi had a brake problem or there was another cause of the crash, it appears PennDot shares responsibility because they knew for years that the road was dangerous, yet failed to take necessary safety precautions.

The Fire Chief said trucks use the road as a way to avoid weigh stations. He said the number of trucks coming through the town is a cause for concern especially because many homes are within 10 – 20 feet from the street. “When the trucks go by 50-60 miles an hour, you know, you can feel it shake your windows. It’s definitely a safety issue for our town,” he said.

The Fire Chief, and others, have reached out to PennDot and local representatives about changes to the road, including more signage for truckers and a runaway ramp. If nothing changes, residents believe it’s only a matter of time before the next crash, and it could be fatal.

The community has the right to expect that the government will make roadways safe. Unfortunately, the government is often not up to the task. Lawsuits almost always result in improved roadways, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We should not have to wait for personal injury or wrongful death litigation to promote safety.

Let’s hope this recent crash brings about change in the way of a run-away ramp or arresting barrier system, wider shoulder, posted warning signs, and/or increased law enforcement such as preventing truckers from avoiding weigh stations. The safety of the community must always be a top priority. The time is now before it is “too little too late.”

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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