On January 9, 2015, a pile-up of epic proportions occurred on I-94 between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Due to bad weather, in particular a slick roadway covered in black ice, 193 cars lost control and slammed into other vehicles, embankements, road barriers and snow banks.
The pile-up closed I-94 for two days and resulted in explosions from a semi-truck hauling fireworks and a tanker hauling acid. Approximately 73 commercial vehicles were effected.
Last week, the Michigan State Police issued 58 speeding tickets to motorists involved in the crash. Although many of the drivers encountered the roadway unaware of the slick conditions that awaited them, an investigation by the Michigan State Police discovered that speed played a major role in the massive pile-up.
Under Michigan law, motorists much operate their vehicles with due care and caution given the road conditions the operator encounters. Speed limitations is addressed under MCL 257.627
(1) A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead.
This statute, or law means that drivers must control their vehicles and be able to stop within a safe distance no matter the weather conditions.
According to the Michigan State Police, the motorists that day did not come upon a sudden emergency like a blizzard or so-called “white-out”. Instead, the weather had been snowy for some time and the road conditions were icy leading up to the accident scene. As a result, the drivers should have operated their vehicles at a slower speed given the dangerous road conditions.
The carnage that day was historic. Pile-ups occurred on both eastbound and westbound lanes along the interstate. Approximately 133 vehicles were involved in the westbound pile-up alone. Tragically, one truck driver was killed. 18 other motorists were injured. Emergency workers responding to the scene sustained injuries as well.
It is reported state police reviewed photos, videos, as well as driver and witness statements before issuing the citations. In giving the tickets, the MSP highlighted that many other vehicles were able to properly slow down and come to a stop to avoid the pile-up.
Following it’s investigation, the MSP urged drivers to slow down in bad weather conditions, and in particular to leave extra stopping distance between vehicles.