Wind gust wins game of chicken. Was this accident preventable?

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Updated Sep 29, 2022

It was a cool windy day in Chicken, Alaska, and trucker John Doe was northbound with an empty intermodal container.

Doe exchanged a container loaded with ptarmigan feed at the Chicken Mercantile Emporium for an empty one and made a quick jog north on Alaska Route 5 before heading back toward the Port of Anchorage, about 400 miles south. 

It was blustery and the rolling terrain funneled strong crosswinds across the highway. The side of Doe's rig is blasted by an unexpected gust of wind and as he gathered it into the right-hand lane, he dropped his speed to 30 mph from the posted limit of 55. 

"Feels like I'm driving a windsock out here," Doe exclaimed across his CB. Just as Doe went 10-10 and racked his mic, a 70 mph burst of wind smashed into the side of his trailer, tipping it on its side and nearly caused Doe to go 10-100.

Was this accident preventable?

The fleet safety manager flagged Doe for a preventable accident, saying Doe should have parked his rig until the wind subsided, and if he'd have kept a close watch on the weather forecast Doe could have planned his trip more carefully. Doe, pointing out wind is both invisible and unpredictable, appealed the decision to the National Safety Council. The agency sided with Doe, noting that the driver had taken every reasonable precaution, and that even if Doe had parked his rig there was no guarantee the tractor-trailer would have remained upright given the conditions.