Friday, October 7, 2022

Road construction and "hazard"

Heinrick's Law of Safety holds that it is impossible to prevent fatalities, severe accidents and even minor accidents. A fatality is simply an unlucky stacking of multiple hazards. Consequently, the only way to reduce fatalities is to address hazards in a systematic way.

One of Eaton County's major east/west highways (all east/west roads in Eaton County are identified as "highways" vs N/S "roads") is Island Highway. It is closed as drainage issues are addressed.

I passed a wicked-bad accident at 1:55PM today at the corner of Columbia-and-Canal, exactly one mile north of where Island Highway is closed.

Based on where the wrecks were located, the eastbound vehicle (an SUV?) on Columbia did not stop but continued to proceed through the intersection at 55mpg. It struck a northbound minivan which had the right of way at that intersection. By all appearances the driver of the minivan saw the "bullet vehicle" not slowing down and laid on the brakes. Approximately 25 feet of skid marks lead up to the intersection on northbound Canal. Alas, it was too little, too late.

The bullet vehicle was approximately 40 yards north of the intersection, in the ditch and resting on the driver's side, roof toward Canal. The target vehicle was +100 yards east of the intersection and had likely fatalities.

Six vehicles had already stopped. I made a decision to keep driving.

Eight minutes after passing the accident scene, I heard multiple sirens from Charlotte, Michigan heading toward the scene.

Please pray for the victims. There was virtually nothing the driver of the minivan could have done to avoid the accident. The intersection has poor visibility looking toward the west. The bullet vehicle was likely speeding because the detour "slowed him down".

As a tepid defense of the driver of the bullet-vehicle, the intersection that was closed, Island-and-Canal, Island has the right-of-way. Columbia-and-Canal, Canal has the right-of-way. Due to the rolling topography the stop-sign for east-bound Columbia appears suddenly.


  1. A wonderful bit of cross-agency training I got one time from a highway patrol sgt. "If ya cain't help the incident, then clear the scene."

  2. That is clear advice, Alan. I've stopped to help if I'm johnny on the spot. One I didn't stop at was multiple folks on the pavement. Truck load of people rolled on the highway. I was a dozen or more cars behind, so I hit the very next place that had a phone and called it in.

    I read a story once about a hotel fire that killed a lot of folks. Every one figured someone called the fire department but no one actually did. I figured I'd be the one that always did from then on.

  3. Years of free solo rock climbing has taught me there are far more effective means of avoiding accidents than those cited by Heinrick.

    In your example, however it would mean avoiding such intersections completely, as I avoided the "help" of other (less disciplined) climbers. (I will not stand on a ladder if another human being is touching it.) Not everyone believes they have that choice, and it most definitely comes at what modern society would call an "unacceptable cost".

    1. Some examples of eliminating or diluting hazard would be to install a stop-light. Some intersections can have visibility hazard reduced by trimming back shrubbery. Grading can reduce sediment on the pavement so braking is improved. In some cases roads do not intersect at right angles and the lesser-traveled road can be "bent" so it hits the other road at a right angle so there is not a blind-spot on the passenger side. In the case of eastbound Columbia, an additional sign could be posted at the top of the hill informing drivers that cross-traffic does not stop so they are typed off in advance.

      There are often steps short of total avoidance that can implemented. No, they will not totally eliminate the risk.

  4. I've seen warning signs ahead of hard to see upcoming stop signs, or even easy to see ones that are often missed, the same with stop lights also.


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