After a crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge sent a woman and her car plunging over the guard rail and into the water below, federal authorities have gotten involved in an investigation of the bridge to determine whether structural or design deficiencies may have contributed to the accident.

Causes of crash not yet known

Around 8:30 p.m. on July 19, 2013, a vehicle driven by a 22-year-old woman was struck by a tractor-trailer while crossing Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge. For reasons that have yet to be determined, the collision forced the woman’s vehicle up and over the bridge’s railing.

After teetering on the guard rail for what she said “felt like an eternity,” the woman’s car plummeted approximately 40 feet into the water below, taking her along with it, CBS News reported.

Against all odds, the driver survived the crash with only relatively mild injuries. After landing in the bay, as her vehicle filled with water, the woman managed to free herself and swam to a nearby rock piling where she waited until help arrived.

A passing boater reportedly stopped and stayed with the woman until paramedics arrived on the scene, transporting her by helicopter to a nearby hospital. The woman considers herself “a walking miracle,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

Bridge investigation is ongoing

Shortly after the crash, AAA Mid-Atlantic raised questions about whether potential design flaws may have played a role in the accident and sent a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board asking it to investigate the crash. According to the CBS report, some of the issues raised by the AAA include:

  • Whether the bridge’s restraint system failed.
  • Whether the bridge’s restraint system meets federal safety standards.
  • Whether federal safety standards are inadequate to keep drivers safe in crashes of this type.

The NTSB is collaborating with the Maryland Transit Authority to determine the cause of the crash and identify any safety deficiencies in the bridge’s construction or design.

Despite the dramatic nature of the recent crash, traffic accidents are relatively uncommon on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. According to the Maryland Transit Authority, the bridge averaged 43 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled between 2008 and 2011. Statewide, the average was substantially higher at 166 crashes per 100 million miles traveled.

Get legal help if hurt in a car accident

People who are injured in Maryland traffic accidents may have the opportunity to receive financial compensation for the harm they suffer as a result of the crash, including hospital bills, lost wages and other losses. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car crash in Maryland, contact a reputable personal injury lawyer near you for more information.