Spanning more than four miles, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one of the world’s longest over-water structures. It connects Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore with the more urban Western Shore of the bay and the city of Annapolis. Given its length and the number of cars that traverse it every day, one would expect the bridge to see its share of accidents. And some have been quite strange.
One shocking crash occurred in 2013. It led officials to consider safety on the bridge more closely.
How did this car accident occur?
To this day, one of the more memorable accidents involving the Chesapeake Bay Bridge involved a semi-truck and a Chrysler Sebring. The tractor-trailer pushed the Sebring, driven by college student Morgan Lake, over the barrier at the side of the bridge, sending the car plunging some 40 feet into the bay.
Luckily, Lake had her wits about her. According to CBS Baltimore, she initially felt as if she were drowning but then found the strength and agility to escape the car and swim to the surface. “As soon as I got to the surface, I took five really deep breaths of air,” she said.
Drummond Law Firm ranks this accident second on its list of the weirdest car crashes of all time.
Is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge the site of frequent car accidents?
If an accident such as Lake’s is possible, you’d probably think the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a particularly unsafe place to drive. But it turns out the opposite is true.
After Lake’s accident, the Maryland Transportation Authority emphasized that, overall, the bridge has a much better safety record than most highways. According to The Washington Post, in 2013, the bridge averaged only 43 crashes per 100 million vehicles, while statewide roads had seen an average of 166 crashes per 100 million.
But many people remain afraid to drive on bridges, and often for good reasons. There’s always the fear that one could end up experiencing a much worse fate than Lake.
Take, for example, a recent incident involving an infant. Chesapeake Bay Magazine recounted the story of a baby rescued after falling into Assawoman Bay in a five-car collision on the Route 90 bridge.
Does the Maryland Department of Transportation have plans to address safety issues on the bridge?
So, though the Chesapeake Bay Bridge has an overall excellent safety record, there’s always room for improvement. And the Maryland government has been looking into ways to do so for a while.
In 2008, for example, following another similar accident, the governor appointed a panel to look into bridge and tunnel safety. According to The Washington Post, the panel concluded that bridge railings were not generally designed to withstand the force of a semi-truck. And following Lake’s accident, the NTSB sent investigators to the scene. Maryland government officials pledged to implement any recommendations stemming from that investigation.
Safety issues on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are thus an ongoing concern for government officials and the public. Everyone hopes that as more investigations collect more information, engineering on this bridge and others will keep drivers even safer.