Why Are There So Many Big Car Crashes On I-94?
In theory, car accidents can happen anywhere. If vehicles can be driven on a given road, the potential for car accidents exists. But some roadways have higher rates of accidents than others. Here in Michigan, parts of I-94 have a reputation for making headlines because of reports of car accidents, often large multi-car pileups. In February 2018, I-94 was shut down near Kalamazoo because of an accident involving more than 50 cars. Most notably, on January 9, 2015, there was a massive 193-vehicle accident on I-94 near Galesburg, which resulted in one death and part of I-94 being shut down for two days. And these are just two of the most notable accidents in recent years.
It’s important to note that I-94 is a very long interstate, extending for over 1,500 miles throughout multiple states and some sections of it have higher rates of accidents than others. In 2015, MDOT conducted a safety audit focusing on the 143 miles of I-94 between the east side of Jackson and the Michigan-Indiana border. This study found that between 2012 and 2014, I-94 in Van Buren County had a car accident rate 21.5% higher than average for the entire area included in the study and had a 67% higher than average rate of pileups involving five or more vehicles.
When MDOT’s safety audit looked specifically on wintertime car accidents, the overall crash rate on this part of I-94 was actually about even with other Michigan highways with 70 MPH speed limits. But the section of I-94 that runs between Berrien and Jackson counties had a winter car accident rate 24% higher than nearly every other highway in the state.
What’s causing all these car accidents in these parts of I-94? There are a couple of different factors that come into play.
The area around US-127 and I-94 in Jackson often sees quite a few accidents, frequently involving commercial trucks since it’s an area truck drivers often go through on their way to Chicago and other cities. It also sees a lot of traffic from people traveling to and from the Western Michigan University campus in Kalamazoo, as well as to businesses located near the interchange, so it’s a pretty busy area in general. With that much activity in the area, particularly from younger, less experienced drivers and drivers of large trucks, common driving mistakes like speeding or distracted driving can easily result in accidents.
The weather along parts of I-94 is also a major factor in many accidents. Van Buren County gets more snow and freezing rain than other areas of the I-94 corridor. In other parts of I-94, the general geography, when combined with certain weather events, can also cause problems for drivers. For instance, over by Galesburg, there are several open fields along I-94, which means it’s easy for snow to blow across the road and make it harder for drivers to see, in addition to making it more likely for the road to get icy.
If you frequently travel through this area of I-94, some of the best things you can do are make sure you watch your speed and stay fully focused on driving, particularly in snowy or otherwise bad weather conditions. If you end up being involved in a car accident, particularly a multi-car accident or truck accident, be sure to contact a traffic accident lawyer as soon as possible. Car accidents involving commercial trucks or multiple vehicles can be more complicated than regular car accidents, so a lawyer will be able to help make sure your case is handled appropriately.