The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled this week that Dominique D. Adams may sue the Mississippi Transportation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Transportation for negligence that resulted in the death of her husband, Gulfport Bandido Christopher D. Adams.
Adams died after he strayed into the wrong lane in December 2010 and failed to negotiate an edge trap when he tried to steer back.. The ruling explains: “Christopher Adams died from injuries he sustained when his motorcycle wrecked on Interstate 10 in Jackson County. After traveling north on Interstate 110 in Harrison County, Adams merged onto an eastbound lane of I-10, where he entered a construction zone. According to the complaint, Adams inadvertently drove into a closed lane and then, when he tried to navigate back into an open lane, his motorcycle hit an uneven surface between lanes and “rotated.” Adams was thrown from his motorcycle and into traffic, where two other vehicles hit him, causing injuries from which he later died.”
The two state agencies had claimed they were immune from liability in the incident and had requested a summary judgment against the widow in 2014. Jackson County Circuit Judge Robert Krebs ruled against the state and the supreme court affirmed his decision.
Dominique Adams is also suing Mallette Brothers Construction Company, Inc., the Gautier company that actually did the road work. Mallette Brothers was legally obligated to follow certain standard practices, like re-striping the road each day, and the state was obliged to ensure the construction company followed those standard practices. According to a highway safety expert named V.O. “Dean” Tekell Jr. who testified in the case, the state highway agencies “knew or should have known of Mallette Brothers’ non-compliance with the Traffic Control Plan,” and they “failed to require Mallette Brothers to place a solid white traffic stripe in the area of the subject incident and failed to require the placement of drums in conformance with the traffic control detail.”
Edge traps (sometimes called pavement edge drop offs) result from milling one lane in a multi-lane highway before that lane is resurfaced. The milled lane often feels like ice or oil to motorcyclists. When a road is milled poorly the resulting grooves may vary greatly in size and direction. The process also creates a lane that is two or more inches lower than the adjacent, un-milled lane. This drop off in the height of adjoining lanes is called an edge trap.
In September 2009, two motorcyclists named Jude Bihari and Ronald Ross were killed in separate incidents about eight hours apart as a result of an edge trap on Route 295 near Bordentown, New Jersey. There are no federal standards to ensure motorcyclists safety in road construction zones.
Christopher Adams fatal mistake may have been trying to return to the proper lane too quickly. Edge traps are most deadly when a rider attempts to immediately ease back into the correct lane at an angle of less than 45 degrees. The correct riding tactic for negotiating an edge trap is to ride away from the edge trap then swerve back in order to bump over the edge trap at an angle above 45 degrees.