Placement of Traffic Cones Causes Highway Accident

    This case involves traffic cone misplacement which resulted in the death of a child. Traffic cones were set out to block off a lane for a highway design and construction. The plaintiff was driving his wife and twelve-year-old daughter by the area of road work when he saw a traffic cone in his lane. He swerved to dodge the cone and overcorrected, veering into the next lane of traffic. The back half of the plaintiff’s car hit the front of another car and sent both cars spinning.  The child was hit on the head and killed on impact and the plaintiff and his wife both suffered from neck injuries and breathing difficulty. The passenger of the other car also sustained a dislocated shoulder and bruises. A traffic engineering expert is sought to opine on the issue.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Who is responsible for the placement of the traffic cones, and is there a standard for traffic control devices that should have been upheld?

    Expert Witness Response

    The primary responsibility for the placement and maintenance of traffic cones in work zones falls on the involved construction company. The Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, specifying the standards by which contractors should install traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals. In a situation like this, the construction company seems to have failed in adhering to the configuration and spacing of cones detailed in the MUTCD. Though the maintenance of these safety standards is mostly the responsibility of the contractor, routine inspection of the traffic control devices by the project owner is expected as well. This is especially common when the owner is a public agency.

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