Hopefully, we all learn from our mistakes……But having handled hundreds of NY and PA accident cases over 20+ years, one of the sad things you learn is that the same types of accidents tend to repeat themselves over and over again– drunk drivers, speeding tractor trailers, inattentive drivers playing with their radio rather than the road ahead, etc.

A story today in the Elmira Star-Gazette about two fatal accidents, one on Rt. 86 near Bath, NY and the other on Rt. 13 near Ithaca, NY, illustrate the point regarding two common types of car accidents: (1) Exiting a Broken Down Car on the Highway and (2) Accidents In Dangerous Areas.


The newspaper story described the first accident as follows:

The first accident took place around 8 a.m. Tuesday when Timothy N. Soles, 32, of Bath, was driving his pickup truck east on Interstate 86 between Exits 38 and 39 in the town of Bath. Soles’ truck had a flat tire and he was out of his vehicle waiting for his father to meet him, Thomas Soles, the man’s father, said Wednesday.

The fatal accident in the town of Bath occurred as Soles was on his way to work at Pool & Spa World, at 7194 State Route 415 in Bath, said Soles’ father.

Timothy Soles pulled onto the south shoulder of the highway and got out of his truck when a tractor-trailer driven by Derek Rivard, 32, of New Liskeard in Ontario, Canada, struck Soles with the fender on the passenger side of the tractor-trailer and with the rear of the trailer, police said

Sad to say, I have handled too many fatal accidents like this where a person was struck after exiting their broken down car on the side of the road. So what is the lesson? If you break down on the highway, pull your car as far off the road as possible and then make sure you and your passengers get as far off the road as possible even if it means that you have to stand outside the car.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting that this accident was because Mr Soles necessarily did anything wrong. In fact, it may be true in the Soles accident described above, as it has been in many cases that I have handled, that the fault of the accident was entirely due to a careless tractor trailer driver failing to pay attention to a disabled car. I can’t tell you the number of times my investigation has revealed that a tractor trailer driver made absolutely no effort to give any extra space to a disabled car at the side of the road by moving into the other lane. My point is that because I have seen this happen time and time again, my advice is to expect that the tractor trailer drivers will NOT do what they SHOULD do so you have to take extra efforts to assume the worse and get your car as far from the road as possible.


Having lived in this area of Upstate NY my whole life, it amazes me how often I have read about accidents happening in the same places: the Miracle Mile in Elmira Heights, County Route 64 near the Mall in Horseheads, Route 352 in Big Flats…… These so-called accident “hot spots” seem to have accidents WAY more frequently than other places. WHY? It is usually due to many different factors: congested areas, high speed areas, areas subject to icing in the winter, areas where there is a number of bars and consequently more drunk drivers, etc.

The second fatal accident near Ithaca, NY occurred in a dangerous area at the crest of a hill, where two lanes merge into one lane, and where there is traffic in and out of an adjacent gas station. The Star-Gazette article noted that:

The second accident took place about 12 hours later, around 8 p.m., when Theresa M. Bonarski, 37, of Corning, was driving south on state Route 13 in the town of Newfield when her sport utility vehicle veered into the northbound lane and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer. The accident in Newfield occurred near Valley View Gas and Grocery at the top of a long hill coming out of the Ithaca area toward Elmira.

In June 2000, one person was killed and four others injured in a two-vehicle accident at the same spot.

The crest of the hill, with two lanes going into one in the southbound direction, and the traffic flow in and out of the gas station make it a spot where drivers need to take extra care, said Dave Wall, the public information officer for the Newfield Fire Department.

The lesson to be learned in these dangerous areas is that they are places where you have to be extra careful, slow down, watch for other drivers who may not be driving safely and it at all possible, try to take alternate routes to avoid the dangerous “hot spots”.

My heart goes out to the families of these fatal accident victims. For my readers, I hope that out of these tragedies we can learn that it’s important to be vigilant and drive defensively whenever we are behind the wheel! As the father of an 18 year old driver and a 16 year old daughter who is taking her road test today (UGHH!), I preach “defensive driving” until my kid’s ears bleed because I know all too well the consequences of an accident…..

Thanks for reading,

Jim Reed