NTSB: Truck driver to blame for Chesapeake Bay Bridge crash

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A tractor truck driver’s inattention to the road in front of him while looking in his side view mirror was the probable cause of last year’s crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridgewhich led to a woman’s car being pushed into the water, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB released its final report Wednesday on the July 19, 2013, three-vehicle crash in which Morgan Jade Lake of Sunderland was injured after plummeting 40 feet and winding up in the Chesapeake Bay.

SEE RELATED: View the full NTSB report

The truck driver, Gabor Lovasz, 29, of Canada, was charged with failure to control speed to avoid a collision, unsafe lane changing, negligent driving and speed greater than reasonable and prudent on highway.

Also in the report, the NTSB said contributing factors in the crash were the truck driver's unfamiliarity with the area and lack of knowledge that traffic routinely slows on the eastbound span of the bridge after exiting the toll plaza and before entering the leftward curve.

The unusual collision dynamics that allowed for a passenger vehicle to be pushed over the barrier wall and into the water also contributed to the severity of the crash, the report concluded.

Wednesday’s report also mirrored the conclusions made by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, which issued its report in August.

MDTA Executive Director Bruce W. Gartner said the accident highlights the need for improved safety measures on the bridge, and pointed out that his agency last month outlined $500,000 in safety upgrades for the bridge, including requiring vehicles to use their headlights at all times when driving across it.

“The NTSB’s report underscores the immense responsibility of each and every driver when traveling the Bay Bridge,” said Gartner in a statement. “Please keep your eyes on the road, don’t tailgate and put your cell phones away. In turn, motorists can be assured that the MDTA places their safety first at all of its bridges, tunnels and highways.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski echoed that sentiment. Following the accident, the Maryland Democrat wrote to NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman calling for the board to investigate the safety of the Bay Bridge.

Mikulski had called on the NTSB to examine the safety of the bridge’s physical structure, the traffic patterns of each span throughout the day and at peak travel times during the week and the year. She has also asked the NTSB to examine whether a new bridge is needed.

“The [NTSB] report is a reminder of the areas on the bridge that require complete driver awareness,” said Mikulski in a statement. "This factual data will help state officials improve the bridge’s safety for the upcoming season.

“But we can’t sit back with a sigh of relief. Safety for Maryland’s families and commuters is my top priority. So is making sure those first time motorist on the bridge are properly informed of their driving responsibilities.” 

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