I-94: The Freeway Is Unsafe In More Ways Than One
Two major accidents in two days on I-94 has local media outlets questioning the freeway's safety. On Tuesday, a fatal accident on I-94 near Parma involving a semi-truck had the highway's westbound lanes shut down for hours as authorities investigated the fiery crash that rendered its victims unrecognizable. Two people were in a Sport Utility Vehicle that struck the rear of a semi, whose driver remains in critical condition. This wreck forced a chain reaction of accidents behind the original.
Then, Wednesday morning in Eastern Jackson County, a FedEx truck flipped on its side locking up eastbound traffic. This prompted WLNS to compose a story that asks Jackson County Sheriff's officials about the freeway's safety. This is where the head scratching and shaking comes into play.
It's not absurd for WLNS to ask about I-94's safety, especially in the wake of two major accidents. But, this has been going on for years on the interstate, especially the stretch that runs through Jackson County. In the WLNS story, Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand cited a few reasons as to why he believes the stretch sees so many wrecks. He admits that the type of accidents seen this week are not unusual; that many major roadways intersect with the narrow stretch of freeway, leading to the increase of incidents through the county; and that drivers travel at a high, dangerous rate of speed with distractions (like mobile devices). But, Rand said the highway itself isn't bad...placing blame on speeding, distracted drivers. I call a bit of B.S. out on this.
The highway has been a hazard since its inception. It's narrow, especially in Jackson County, with poorly designed interchanges with major thoroughfares like US-127. This road was not designed with the thought of vehicles traveling in excess of 75 MPH. Nobody remembers that while they're on I-94. The freeway is going under a major widening project. But, will that ease the burden? It's unlikely.
Yes, commuters need to exercise more caution, slow down, and stay focused. But, Rand also suggests leaving extra travel distance between other vehicles, including trucks. I love my truckers...most of them are the safest drivers on the road. However, that is not always the case, especially on an Interstate Freeway that is a major travel artery for international trade, serving major cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. On this narrow, two-lane each way freeway, drivers are more prone to encounter irresponsible commercial drivers.
If you've driven I-94 between Detroit and Chicago, you know exactly what I'm talking about...and, you'll know that the tendency for major pile-ups exists on this entire stretch, not just Jackson County. And, you've probably seen semi drivers jockeying for position in the one and only left passing lane between Ann Arbor and Paw Paw, all in an effort to shave a few minutes on their mileage log, while slowing passenger traffic to 65-70 miles per hour. Keep in mind, the speed limit for trucks on most Michigan freeways is 60 MPH. Trucks have no problem cutting off a long line of left lane travelers, all in an effort to get an extra 40 miles on an eight hour journey. And, when one impatient trucker jumps left, two, three, maybe four more will follow suit in effort to keep the convoy of cruise control intact. (I find it funny, and no coincidence that the majority of these @$$#0le truckers have an Ontario plate on their rig...)
Being the international artery that it is, it's only natural that I-94 has a lot of truckers traveling on it that have logged a lot of hours, and likely are pushing their D.O.T. hours limit. Truckers, too, are prone to fatigue and distraction, and as far as I'm concerned, can be more dangerous than most passenger vehicles...including those driven by operators under the influence. Semis rarely slow down in inclement weather...especially in icy or snowy conditions. Nobody likes to be passed by a big rig on the freeway. But, in the heart of a Michigan lake effect snowfall, being passed is downright frightening. Naturally, if the trucks maintain normal speeds in bad weather, passenger drivers will try to do the same.
Yes, there are some horrible drivers in passenger vehicles on every road in America. And, yes, we tend to drive a bit faster here than in most states. All drivers need to be more conscious of their driving habits. But, as far as the unsafe driving on I-94 is concerned, I point my finger first and foremost to the handful of truckers that think they're Snowman shielding The Bandit from Buford T. Justice.