Utility Pole Collisions

Utility poles — their name alone points to their usefulness. From carrying electrical wires and communications cables to serving as home to street lights, traffic signals, trolley wires, and more, they are an essential part of the modern landscape. Despite their “utility,” the poles can prove dangerous. Utility pole accidents can cause serious, catastrophic injuries and the collisions carry a high risk of occupant death. When another driver’s actions lead to a utility pole collision, our Oakland car crash lawyer can help victims recover critically needed money damages.

Hayward Man Killed in Light Pole Crash
On Monday, the Alameda County Coroner’s office identified the victim of a fatal single-car accident that occurred in Hayward on Sunday evening. As reported by The Oakland Tribune, 21 year-old Omar Alimi of Hayward died in the collision along the 30000 block of Industrial Parkway SW. Witnesses told police that Alimi had been driving erratically, moving across lanes, and possibly speeding before crashing into a light pole. Police said Alimi was not wearing a seatbelt.

Utility Pole Crash Statistics carcrash.jpg
Given that there are more than 88 million utility poles across the United States, it may not be surprising to learn that only trees are involved in a higher number of fatal fixed-object automobile collisions. As such, one of 22 goals included in a project aimed at eliminating 5,000 to 7,000 highway fatalities annually was titled “A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Utility Poles” (the “Guide”). The Guide, released in 2004, reported that utility pole crashes led to 1,008 fatalities in the U.S. during 2002. With fatalities occurring in about 1% of all utility pole crashes, there were a total of approximately 100,800 utility pole collisions. Approximately 40% of these crashes led to some type of injury, with 7% deemed incapacitating. Examining the crashes in more detail, 25% occurred in adverse weather, 25% in lighted nighttime conditions, and 50% happened in full daylight.

Notably, for purposes of the Guide and in keeping with other accident classification systems, an accident only qualified as a utility pole collision if the crash was deemed the “first harmful event.” This means the statistics do not include incidents where hitting a utility pole was secondary to another event (ex. two cars collided and one spun into a pole), even if the collision was more severe than the initial event.

Recommendations for Preventing Crashes & Reducing Severity
The Guide also proposes measures intended to reduce both the number and severity of utility pole crashes. The authors recommend identifying high-risk poles, relocating them when possible or making other changes to minimize danger (i.e. erecting barriers or using less dangerous “breakaway” materials). They suggest not building new poles in similar high-risk areas or in locations where vehicles are likely to run off the roadway. Additionally, they recommend general safety measures such as active enforcement of speed limits and seatbelt use campaigns that can prevent and minimize all accidents, including utility pole crashes.

Identifying Causes, Assigning Liability, Recovering Damages
Despite the focus on “first harmful events,” it is obvious that most drivers do not collide with utility poles on purpose; something happens that leads to the collision. The nature of that event typically determines whether the victim of a utility pole collision (including “subsequent harmful events” not included in the statistics) has a civil injury claim. If another driver’s negligence forced the victim’s vehicle off-road and into the pole, there may be a personal injury claim against that driver. If a blown tire or other vehicle defect caused the crash, a product liability claim may be appropriate. If poor engineering or a road maintenance issue was to blame, a claim against the municipality may exist. If the crash led to a fatality, a wrongful death claim may be appropriate.

The foregoing examples are just a few of the many scenarios that could lead to a utility pole crash. As always, the legal claim depends on the facts. No two accidents are the same. If a utility pole collision left you injured or claimed a loved one’s life and someone else is to blame, our Oakland utility pole crash law firm can help. We will examine the facts, determine the appropriate civil claims, and help you get the money damages you deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:
Deer Crashes: Statistics, Prevention, and Protecting the Injured

Fatal Single-Vehicle Crash Serves as a Reminder of the Threat of Dangerous Road Conditions