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Rhode Island Changes Policy on Wrecks

March 6, 2000

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Rhode Island law enforcement officials are no longer worried about cleanup damage to the vehicle or cargo when a wrecked truck blocks traffic.

In the past state officials feared lawsuits if cargo or equipment was damaged, so they waited until all goods were unloaded from a disabled truck before reopening traffic lanes. According to the Providence Journal, the average delay was four hours.
But transportation officials recently discovered an obscure 1992 state law that eliminates any liability for them or for tow truck drivers if an overturned truck blocks lanes or poses a public safety threat.
"If the goods are destroyed, well so be it," said state police Capt. John Leyden. "We don't think that citizens of the state should have to put up with untimely delays because of a careless truck driver."
Paul Kennedy, director of safety for the Rhode Island Trucking Assn., said they are generally supportive of the change, but hope cleanup crews will be careful.
"We don't really have a strong oppostion to moving (a cargo of vegetables) off the road," he said. "But if you have a cargo of computers, you really want to use more caution."

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