Data reveals most dangerous parts of I-94 in Van Buren County

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Data reveals most dangerous parts of I-94 in Van Buren County. (WWMT/Matt Loughrin)

Data from Michigan State Police supports a theory West Michigan drivers have had for years: Interstate 94 between Hartford and Kalamazoo is one of the most dangerous stretches of interstate in Michigan.

We analyzed reports that detailed crash information for all wrecks on I-94 between the Indiana state line and Sprinkle Road, exit 80. Data showed that from November 2017 to March 2018, twice as many crashes occurred on I-94 between Kalamazoo and Hartford than between the Indiana state line and Hartford.

“We've got a certain four stretches in our county alone in Van Buren at Certain mile markers, we know when crashes start to happen, they're going to be near those mile markers. Those particular stretches, there's not a lot of woods, there's fields on both sides wind blows across and it always seems to ice up there before anywhere else on the highway,” said Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel E. Abbott

He said the changing landscape once you pass mile marker 40 is a big factor in why there are so many crashes along I-94 in Van Buren County.

What led to Wednesday’s early morning crash where four semi trucks and several cars slid off the road is something Abbot said is too common on I-94 in Van Buren County.

“Time after time, just like last night, the temperature will get at a certain temperature, and once it drops that last degree, the water will turn to black ice immediately. And that's what we had last night,” Abbott said.

There’s so many crashes on I-94, that McDonald’s Towing seized the opportunity to turn the old Waffle House at the Lawrence exit into a new towing garage. Terry Kizer from McDonald’s towing said being closer to I-94 allows them to respond to more wrecks on the highway quicker.

Michigan State Police also patrol I-94 throughout the state. Sgt. Brian Beuge said slowing down is the most effective way to reduce your risk of getting into a crash on the interstate.

“The biggest thing is slowing down. We see a lot of drivers driving too fast. Tire tread is a big thing, making sure you have good tires on your car that get good traction,” Beuge said.

On Monday, MSP launched their “Eyes on 94” initiative, which aims to crack down on dangerous driving by commercial vehicles. They’ll be looking for commercial drivers speeding, following too close, improper passing, distracted driving and improper lane use.

“This enforcement effort is a great example of the commitment by the MSP, Indiana State Police, Illinois State Police and the Ohio Highway Patrol to reach our common goal of increasing traffic safety and reducing crashes,” stated Capt. Michael Krumm, commander of the MSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. “We hope to increase awareness by means of high visibility enforcement on the I-94 corridor, which is prone to weather-related crashes this time of year involving interstate commercial vehicle drivers.”

Commercial vehicles includes most semi trucks, but Beuge said that they aren’t the only ones who drive dangerously in the winter time.

“You could have youth, you could have new drivers, inexperienced driving in the weather. A lot of semi drivers are professionals, they're driving a lot all throughout the country. So I don't want to single out anybody,” Beuge said.