The cars were backed up as far as the eye could see. It’s rather unusual to see traffic on Interstate 70 reduced to one lane, let alone brought to a standstill. It snowed an inch or so the night before, but this was mid-day and there was no snow on the highway – or was there?
Traffic finally started creeping along.
As me and others got closer to the top of the roadway’s crest (where the road had been cut through the hilltop when built) it unexpectedly appeared – several inches of ice on the roadway.
The story later told was that the Department of Transportation was working on clearing the ice and had parked on the inside shoulder of the roadway. As is common practice on Interstate Highways the traffic wasn’t shut down while the ice was being removed.
A small passenger car with two occupants entered the icy area, lost control, and slid head on into the Department of Transportation truck. The driver of the car was killed and the passenger seriously injured.
It was a tragic accident that will probably repeat itself in a similar fashion multiple times in multiple places. The question I pose is, “Does it have to?”
As an eternal optimist I believe there’s always a way to do a better job at prevention. The problem is many believe we must affix blame firmly before we can delve into corrective brainstorming. And that’s probably why corrective brainstorming often doesn’t happen.
But, does it have to work that way? Let’s give it a try without affixing blame.
Can roadways be closed when ice is on isolated parts of the highway?
Can bright signs be placed where these dangerous places are?
Can there be lights on those signs that activate during bad weather?
Can we heat these vulnerable areas of the roadway?
Can we excavate the hill tops?
Can verbal warnings be sent to cell phones?
Amazingly, preventive actions can be suggested without ever even affixing blame.
The very least an accident victim deserves is that we use their accident as a means of creating preventive upgrades to save future lives. It’s the very least we can do.