Social Responsibility When Witnessing Incidents on the Road


Social responsibility. In its simplest terms social responsibility means taking action by communicating alerts that help us and others avoid harmful situations, most often defined by the obligation to report an incident that could affect someone negatively in some way.

Everyone is in a hurry these days to commute from Point A to Point B. Driving to work or school, we witness acts of nature and carelessness among other citizens, intentional or not. An example of an act that may require taking action to promote social awareness and responsibility is reporting a fallen tree, a dislodged manhole or utility cover, or directional cones and signs that may have been moved or dragged farther down the road by other vehicles. When you witness any of those events, your social responsibility to alert others comes into play.

Let’s take manhole and utility cover incidents. Manhole and utility covers can be found throughout every city in the world as sidewalks and streets constantly need repair and workers need access to underground sewers. Manhole covers are created from cast iron and designed to fit securely into a smaller inset ring close to the top of the opening that prevents the cover from falling farther down the hole. The covers are lifted by inserting a pick handle into the pick holes in the cover. No matter how the cover is placed, it cannot fall lower than the ring. The general purpose of these covers is to keep someone from falling into the sewer and to keep unqualified people out of harm’s way.

As careful as workers are, incidents with these covers can still occur. A driver can dislodge the manhole cover unbeknownst to the car behind him until its too late. Unsecured covers on a sidewalk can cause someone to trip. Driving over an ill-positioned manhole cover can cause an accident that yields permanent damage to tires and car frames. A construction worker (or child) could fall into a unmarked manhole. When a tire hits a loose manhole cover, it could fly up to hit a window, land on the back of a car, or fly in the path of oncoming traffic and passers-by. Kids playing on a quiet street can remove the cover out of boredom and forget to replace it, or chose not to.

Not overlooking the fact that 911 should be called whenever there is a true emergency, what can you do when you see something amiss that needs to be reported, but does not necessarily require calling an emergency hotline? In many counties and cities, the Public Works department remains the primary contact for maintaining sidewalks, curbs and gutters, street trees, water services, and the sewer system, to name a few. They also have the duty of maintaining manhole and utility covers, and ensuring that these covers are replaced promptly and properly, positioned securely and repaired if defected.

Social responsibility. In the age of constant driving distractions, our social responsibility becomes even more important than ever when we see something that needs to be addressed whether it be a fallen tree or a loose manhole cover. Be familiar with your local jurisdiction sooner rather than later to find out where best to report an incident when you see one before it’s too late.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.