Tallying The Toll Of Winter Driving On I-94

Posted at 10:59 PM, Mar 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-06 05:14:18-05

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (March 5, 2014) – We are getting our first look at West Michigan winter driving along I-94 by the numbers.

This winter, at least on I-94 in Van Buren County, it isn’t taking much for drivers to lose control. From December to February of this winter, troopers from the Michigan State Police Paw Paw Post alone responded to 423 crashes in the county. Form 2012-2013, they responded to 302 crashes in that same time period.  In 2011-2012, state police responded to 257 crashes.

“That is not including the numbers that local agencies or the sheriff’s department have handled,” Lt. Dale Hinz said.

The Van Buren Sheriff’s Department told FOX 17 deputies have responded to 70 crashes since the first of the year.

Those numbers can be a little deceiving.  Pile-ups are considered a single crash on the stat sheet, even if they involve more a dozen semis or 30 vehicles.

Troopers at the Paw Paw post watch weather forecasts closely, because Van Buren County has been the bulls-eye whenever the lake effect snow machine ramps up.

“We try to beef up our patrols especially out on 94,” Lt. Hinz said. “We will bring in extra mapower on overtime just to make sure that we’ve got that covered.  When we have those snowy conditions, we know those large pile-ups are just waiting to happen.”

However, problems don’t decrease after the snow stops, said Hinz. “We see a decrease in the number of crashes when the roads improve, but we also see an increase in the severity of the injuries because speeds increase.”

What’s more, you can expect a bumpy ride on I-94 this spring.  Drivers are already seeing a mine field of potholes emerging. “We will be looking for more crashes and damage from those,” Lt. Hinz said.

MSP said the extreme cold can also be blamed for an increase in the number of crashes.  The low temperatures means the salt put on the roads isn’t effective making it easier for drivers to lose control.