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Interstate-94 accident study released

Following a 193 car pile up on Interstate 94 near Kalamazoo last winter, a study was ordered by state officials and its findings were released on Monday. 

Senator Margaret O'Brien said, "We definitely need data when we want to advocate for spending the type of money to expand I-94. So now we have the data. So now what it's really about is long term planning."

Senator O'Brien said the study was conducted from the Indiana state line to Jackson County in Michigan.

O’Brien said, "And some of what we fund, there's very short merge lanes in some of the areas. We believe cause a lot of accidents. Looking at all those interchanges as we go east on 94. I'm optimistic that we can create a long term plan to solve these problems."

Those who conducted the study suggested putting weather detection equipment and signs near certain curves on I-94 to alert drivers to potential dangers.

Drivers pointed out "Puetz curve" as the biggest danger on I-94 in Berrien County.

Paul Oberlee said, “If the road conditions aren’t dry and you’re speeding, It’s going to push your car to the outside of the curve so it’s kind of dangerous. It probably should be sloped.”

The document is nearly a hundred pages but here is some of the data they collected: 

* A total of 6,678 crashes occurred along the study corridor (mainline) between 2012 and 2014, including 5,840 (87.5 percent) that did not involve deer. The overall corridor crash rate during this period was 101.12 crashes (88.43 non-deer crashes) per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. 

* From 2012 – 2014, the I-94 study corridor had an overall crash rate that was similar to the statewide average for freeways with 70 mph posted speed limits. However, during this same period, the study corridor experienced a winter season (December – February) crash rate that was 24 percent greater than the other statewide 70 mph freeways. Only I-196 and US-131 demonstrated greater winter season crash rates than the study corridor during this period.  

* Crashes occurred 16.3 percent more frequently in the eastbound direction compared to westbound. Eastbound crashes were particularly overrepresented in Berrien, Van Buren, and Jackson Counties. This directional disparity may be attributed to differing geometric conditions between the two directions, particularly near interchanges.  

* Considering all counties included in the study corridor, crash rates (per 100 million VMT) were greatest in Van Buren County, particularly in the eastbound direction and especially during winter months, when the eastbound crash rate is 65 percent greater than the eastbound corridor average. Overall crash rates in Berrien, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, and Jackson Counties were not significantly different from each other, although winter crash rates were significantly lower in Jackson County compared to the other counties.  

*Approximately 65 percent of the winter season crashes involved a vehicle driving “too fast for conditions”, compared to only 38 percent of all-season crashes. This suggests that speed plays a greater role in winter-season crashes compared to other seasons. This also supports the Michigan iii State Police findings from the January 9, 2015 crash, in which a total of 58 drivers were cited for driving too fast for conditions, including 30 commercial drivers. 

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