Sometimes the implications of an accident are worse than the actual event itself. For example, on December 13th, a diesel cargo tractor-trailer was involved in an accident in Sacramento, California. A car trying to pass the semi brushed against the truck and then collided with a nearby SUV. Amazingly, nobody was hurt. The drivers of the car and SUV were unharmed, as was the driver of the semi truck itself. Interstate 5 was clear within a few hours of the incident, with traffic moving as smoothly as one would normally expect.
However, even though no one was hurt, there was still a disturbing element of the accident: The semi truck began leaking diesel fuel almost immediately after the collision, despite the fact that it was described as very minor in nature. None of the cars was totaled by the collision, and yet the truck began to leak fuel right onto the highway.
Now, city officials had the leak contained almost immediately using barrels of sand and street sweepers, and claim that there is no fuel residue remaining on the road. Further, diesel is not as violently combustible as gasoline, and therefore is less likely to cause a freak fire during such a spill.
However, what if the vehicle had been carrying gasoline instead of diesel? Gasoline fumes are highly combustible, often igniting from as little as a single spark of static electricity. Worse, what if it had been carrying hazardous materials such as the many, many semi trucks on the roads that do carry such cargo? Dangerous acids, toxic chemicals and other volatile cargos are not something to mess around with, and if the contents of a hazardous materials truck can so easily be exposed by a minor scrape, there are design flaws that need to be addressed. Enough people are injured seriously in these accidents already, so why is such dangerous cargo carried in such a fragile state?