FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aug. 29, 2013

Contact:  1st Sgt. Kevin Ayd, 410-537-7724

     

MDTA POLICE RELEASE INVESTIGATION REPORT
FOR JULY 19 CRASH AT BAY BRIDGE

Distracted Driving Found To Be Cause of Crash

BALTIMORE, MD – Today, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police released the collision reconstruction report detailing the July 19, 2013, crash at the Bay Bridge (US 50/301). The investigation concluded that the primary cause of the crash was distracted driving on the part of the commercial-vehicle driver.

“Without a doubt, the MDTA’s priority is the safety of its customers and employees. This crash demonstrates how critical it is that motorists devote their full attention to driving when operating motor vehicles,” said MDTA Police Chief Colonel Michael Kundrat. “A primary reason for crashes on the Bay Bridge is from tailgating.  Maintaining a proper following distance is one of the simplest things drivers can do to stay safe and keep other motorists safe.”

On July 19 at 8:24 p.m., a three-vehicle crash occurred on the eastbound Bay Bridge.  The crash involved an International truck/tractor pulling a semi-trailer, a Chrysler Sebring passenger car and a Mazda CX-5 SUV. 

The tractor-trailer operator, 29-year-old Gabor Lovasz of Canada, indicated to investigators that his attention was directed to his driver’s side mirror due to flashing headlights behind him.  When he looked forward again he noticed that the vehicles in front of him were stopping.  He attempted to steer the tractor trailer to the left to avoid contact, but struck the left rear of the Chrysler, pushing it up onto the top of the barrier wall.  A second impact from the tractor trailer then pushed the Chrysler over the wall, and the car fell approximately 27 feet into the shallow waters of the bay.  The Mazda also was struck by the tractor trailer during the crash.

The investigation revealed that the Chrysler had slowed to approximately four mph when it was struck by the tractor trailer.  Based on a data download of the tractor’s Engine Control Module and Antilock Braking System, investigators believe that it was traveling between 47 and 51 mph just prior to the crash. Vehicle inspections by the Maryland State Police Automotive Safety Enforcement Division and MDTA Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Unit indicated no mechanical defects were present at the time of the inspections following the crash.

Mr. Lovasz had emigrated from Hungary to Canada as part of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program, and his trip through Maryland was his first time driving unaccompanied in the U.S.  The MDTA Police are charging him with failure to control speed to avoid a collision ($130 fine), unsafe lane changing ($130 fine), negligent driving ($280 fine) and speed greater than reasonable and prudent on highway ($130 fine).

The operator of the Chrysler, 23-year-old Morgan Jade Lake of Sunderland, Md., was able to unbuckle her seat belt, free herself from the vehicle and swim to safety at a nearby bridge pier abutment.  She was transported via Medevac to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was treated for minor injuries. Neither    Mr. Lovasz nor the driver and passenger in the Mazda were injured.

The July 19 crash report also references a crash from April 13, 2013, in the same location on the eastbound span involving two passenger vehicles.  The April crash involved a vehicle coming to rest on the barrier wall. There were no injuries or structural damage to the bridge from the April crash.

“Both the April and July crashes were a direct result of distracted driving.  Every one of us has immense responsibility behind the wheel,” said Col. Kundrat. “With two similar incidents over the last few months, we are taking a closer look at this area of the bridge to evaluate what can be done to enhance safety. We’re analyzing potential strategies including flashing Congestion Ahead signs, requiring headlight use during two-way traffic operations and additional rumble strips.”

In the 60-year history of the Bay Bridge, the April and July crashes are the only known incidents where passenger vehicles rode up and rested on the barrier wall or went into the water.  Overall, the safety record on the Bay Bridge is four times safer than the Statewide rate.

The NTSB issued its Preliminary Report on Aug. 19, 2013.  The NTSB has the MDTA’s full cooperation as it works to issue a final report.  A timeframe for the completion of the final report has not yet been determined.

The MDTA Police’s collision reconstruction report is available online at mdta.maryland.gov.  The MDTA Police will have increased patrols over the Labor Day Holiday weekend at the Bay Bridge and all MDTA facilities with a focus on aggressive and distracted driving.

Additional Information:

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The Maryland Transportation Authority Police, a nationally accredited force, is the seventh-largest law-enforcement agency in the State, with more than 600 sworn and civilian law-enforcement professionals. MDTA Police officers provide law enforcement at the Authority’s highways, bridges and tunnels; at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport; and at the Port of Baltimore.