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Can thermal expansion cause vehicle collisions?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2021 | Car Accidents

As the summer months rapidly approach, Pennsylvania drivers must always be on the lookout for highly traveled roads buckling due to thermal expansion. With dramatic changes in temperature, materials such as concrete can expand or contract leaving noticeable cracks, buckles or other evidence of movement. Thermal expansion and contraction on a busy roadway can lead to devastating vehicle crashes.

Generally speaking, heat causes these materials to expand and cool temperatures cause them to contract again. Unfortunately, concrete and asphalt react to these temperature variations in different ways. Typically, concrete is designed to be used in slabs which focus the movement caused by the expansion and contraction at the joint between the slabs. Asphalt, on the other hand, tends to expand or contract evenly over the entire surface area.

Can expansion joints prevent road buckle?

Due to scorching summer temperatures throughout the nation, the expanding highway concrete will simply have nowhere to go. Whether it is two slabs meeting at a joint, or concrete butted up against another material that reacts differently to the weather, the expansion will often result in a road buckle. It is not uncommon for these buckles – also called pavement heaves – to grow several inches high. Even though highways are built to include expansion joints, it often does not provide enough room for the concrete’s movement during dramatic temperature changes.

With the road pavement heaving upward, it will likely cause drivers to swerve to avoid the obstacle and unaware drivers will continue unabated. At highway speeds, a pavement heave of several inches can launch a fast-moving vehicle into the air leading to a loss of control and momentary disorientation when the driver lands. This action can lead to devastating collisions and catastrophic injuries.

If you were injured in a collision caused by a poorly-maintained stretch of highway, it is wise to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney. Depending on numerous factors, you might be entitled to recover monetary compensation for your lost wages, injuries, medical treatment and property damage.


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