A recent semi truck accident in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, illustrated just how thin the line is between an accident and potential disaster. On April 5th, a tractor-trailer overturned on the eastbound 595 ramp. As of 10 p.m. EST, more than four hours after the accident, crews were still trying to get the wreckage cleared and traffic moving again.

The accident blocked all of the lanes for the exit, causing an extensive traffic backup for several miles. Drivers trying to use the exits were forced to use the shoulder of the ramp. This is normally discouraged, as the shoulder of the road is typically a place reserved for motorists whose vehicles have broken down, and for people suffering emergencies or exhaustion.

Part of the problem is that the truck spilled 25 gallons of fuel following the accident. At more than twice the capacity of most passenger vehicles’ entire tanks, this is a significant amount of fuel to spill on a hot road with active cars moving by. If this is gasoline, then there is always a significant chance that the fumes could ignite — accidents involve a lot of hot metal flying around, and it isn’t impossible to imagine a spark setting up a blaze. That, and even diesel fuel spews out fumes, so whether diesel or gasoline there’s a chance of motorists being made ill as they creep by. Securing a fuel spill is a time-consuming and bio-hazardous activity, and because of the aforementioned dangers it has to be taken care of before the wreckers can move the truck itself off the road.

As said before, this was a minor accident, all things considered. Yes, it shut down traffic, but the only person injured was the vehicle’s driver, and he refused to be taken to a hospital, receiving treatment on-scene. But the incident illustrates the many dangers and even inconveniences that are caused by an out of control semi truck.