Highway engineering saved lives during 193-car pile-up

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-11 22:49:25-05

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich.— When we drive down the highway most people can see guard rails, cables, sloped medians, and ditches. However, most people don’t know what the purpose for those things is, and why highways are designed that way. MDOT says the highways are designed with a purpose to keep drivers safe.

MDOT says the specific stretch of I-94 where the 90 mile marker begins had a lot of features that saved a lot of peoples’ lives on Friday.

“It’s miraculous only one person was killed, and 23 injured. It’s simply mind boggling,” said Nick Schirripa of MDOT.

Schirripa says no one on the MDOT staff has ever seen anything like it. The specific stretch of 1-94 where the pileup took place allowed for people to take shelter.

“It’s pretty amazing, but the highways are engineered very well. How the medians are sloped, ditches are sloped on the other side, you know everything is played together to try to mitigate injury as much as possible,” said Lt. Dave Wood of Michigan State Police.

Schirripa says the highways were designed in the 60's. The cables on the median are so cars don't go flying across the highway, steel guards are so you won't roll over, and ditches are to minimize injury if you leave the roadway. Schirripa says on Friday morning all those things saved a lot of lives.

“The ditches and hills provided barriers just by happen-stance for those folks to get out of their cars and find safety away from the crash,” said Schirripa.

Schirripa says highways weren't specifically designed for a large care pile-up like that, and usually during a crash the safest place to stay is in your car. However, on Friday the rules changed.

“I think peoples' instincts in this case to get out and find some safety behind a barrier, served them well in this case,” said Schirripa.

Schirripa says people were going entirely too fast for the weather conditions that day

“We are Michiganders and by god we are going to muscle through every winter because we are Michiganders, but we can't beat physics no matter how hard we try.”

MDOT cautions all drivers to drive safely during heavy snow and low visibility.