Philip Molitor Killed in Crash with 18-Wheeler on US-290 in Washington County, TX
Washington County, TX -- April 4, 2022, 39-year-old Philip Molitor was killed in a crash with a tractor-trailer on U.S. Highway 290 in Washington County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 6:35 a.m. on US-290 near Farm to Market Road 2679. According to preliminary reports, Molitor was driving a Ford F-250 pickup east on the highway in the outside lane when he approached an International semi-truck. The truck driver told police he was stopped in the roadway for a school bus ahead that had its stop-flashers on as children were getting on board.
Reports say Molitor didn't control the Ford's speed and crashed into the back of the semi-trailer. The pickup came to rest partially wedged beneath the trailer.
Molitor was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Philip Molitor Accident on US-290 in Washington County
Many people misunderstand rear-end collisions as simple matters where the rear driver is always to blame. However, the law looks at the fuller context of accidents to learn whether their damage could reasonably have been avoided or lessened. To that end, prudent investigators will also look into other factors that may have made a crash worse than it should have been.
Among those additional details would probably be things like the victim's speed at the time of the collision, whether its driver was distracted, if the big rig ahead braked gradually or abruptly in response to the bus, if the road was wet or otherwise hazardous, what other nearby vehicles were doing, and many other elements. Another detail that often goes unnoticed (but shouldn't) is whether the 18-wheeler had an underride guard, also called a Mansfield bar--a bar of welded metal beneath its trailer.
The Mansfield bar could be mistaken for a step to get inside the trailer, but it's actually required safety equipment designed to mitigate rear-end collisions. While it's not perfect and can't deflect every incoming crash, its purpose is to keep vehicles from going underneath the trailer during a rear-end collision as the pickup reportedly did on Highway 290. That simple measure often prevents a serious crash from becoming fatal.
Sometimes underride guards become much less useful if trucking companies don't maintain them. Cost-cutting measures often mean scaling back repairs and maintenance checks, particularly on parts of the truck that don't keep it rolling. That can mean not cleaning or replacing "non-essential" parts like underride guards. I was actually approached once by a frustrated trucker who secretly recorded his supervisor telling drivers to spray-paint over rusted guards instead of replacing them since they "aren't important."
I'm not saying anything like that was involved in Washington County. Reports don't say the truck driver did anything wrong or that the truck was in bad shape, and I'm certainly not jumping to any such conclusions as I hope for more details. My point is just that many additional factors beyond "who hit whom" must be accounted for after a collision like this. People read about someone rear-ending a truck and think "case closed," but without looking at all the possible issues the investigation isn't complete. The victim's loved ones deserve to know the whole story.