The Dreaded Interstate

Forgive me for jumping around so much but for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what I was going to post when I finally resumed and this is one of the random things I wanted to include.

A recent crash outside of Denver, Colorado which got national attention brought back vivid memories of something which happened to me (well, next to me) on August 3, 2016.  This is the reason I now refer to interstate highways as “the dreaded interstate” and drive more defensively when I do have to be on them.

On that date in 2016 I was driving east on I-74 near Crawfordsville, Indiana, heading home from a trip through Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.  It was a beautiful sunny morning and the road was clear and dry.  I had my cruise control set on the speed limit (honest – these days I’m usually not in a hurry and like to enjoy the scenery) and had to disengage my cruise control while waiting for a semi-truck towing a flat trailer to complete passing a UPS tandem rig ahead of me.  Once the left lane was clear I put cruise control back on and proceeded past both of those vehicles at which point I noticed that traffic was stopped a short distance further up the highway.  I put my 4-way flashers on, disengaged cruise control and slowly advanced to where traffic was now completely stopped.  Because there were mainly trucks in the right lane I stayed in the left lane and stopped next to the last vehicle which was stopped in the right lane.

I looked in the mirror and noticed the brown truck which had been passing the UPS truck barreling up the right lane at what appeared to be full speed.  I quickly thought back to recall if perhaps there was an exit where we were stopped (doubtful, since I probably would have taken it).  I looked in the mirror again and didn’t even finish the thought “that guy’s not going to…..” and BAM – he plowed into the truck next to me at full speed (probably 70 mph).

Here are photos of what both trucks would have looked like before the crash (these are NOT the actual trucks but photos I found online):

The brown truck (Maverick Trucking, LLC):

MaverickTruckBefore

(Photo credit: Jason Miller Collection)

The white truck (which I learned after the incident was a propane tanker – yikes!):

WhiteTruckBefore

(Photo credit: Unknown.  I found this picture shortly after I got home in 2016 and now can’t find it online)

The reason traffic was stopped was that there had been another accident a short distance ahead.  I got out of my car and started calling 9-1-1.  I was prepared to tell the 911 operator that the driver was probably dead but the next thing I heard was “Help! I need a knife, I need a knife”.

When a State Trooper arrived on the scene (very quickly, as they were just up the road) he advised those of us in the left lane to pull our cars ahead in the grassy median since the vehicle which had been struck was, indeed, a propane tanker.  I had already turned a little left when the white truck started to jackknife after hitting the truck which was stopped in front of it.

After I moved my car I took these photos:

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In the photo above you can see the rear wheels of the white truck impaled in the front of the brown truck which stopped immediately on impact.  At impact my car had been in the left lane, between the fire extinguisher and the man in the blue shirt.  The brown truck had been hauling huge spools of wire (like guy wires for radio or TV antennas) and you can see that much of the load went forward right through the truck cab, splitting it as if you had been standing on the trailer and split it with an ax like cutting firewood. I still can’t believe the driver survived!

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The guy in the hat standing next to the cab was consoling the driver, who was still stuck in the cab, until emergency personnel arrived.

Here are photos taken by a local newspaper which I later found online:

(Photo credit: Journal Review, Crawfordsville, Indiana)

JournalReview

JournalReview2

They loaded the driver into a helicopter to fly him to Indianapolis.

JournalReview3

In the photo above you can see the UPS tandem truck at the front of the line of traffic in the right lane.  Fortunately he had enough sense to slow down when he saw my 4-ways on (and perhaps heard on his radio that traffic was stopped).  Through news reports I learned the name of the driver of the brown truck but never heard what they think caused him to behave the way he did.  I figure he either fell asleep, though this was at 9 am, wasn’t paying attention, or had a medical emergency.  I read later that the highway was closed for 10 hours.

I stuck around long enough to leave a report with the troopers, and called one of the accident investigators a day or two later to tell him two things I hadn’t thought to write down – that I never heard a horn and never saw brake smoke.  Evidently the driver made no effort to stop or signal the impending impact, and didn’t “ditch it” into the guard rail to even try and reduce his speed.

Thank God he didn’t move to the left lane or I’d be a goner for sure….

I now leave a cushion between me and the vehicle in front of me when stopping on the road (even a single lane road) in case I need to take evasive action, and unbuckle my seat belt.  If he had changed lanes at the last second I wouldn’t have even had time to get out of my car.

I pay much closer attention to what’s going on behind me when I see we need to slow down or stop.  And my blood pressure and adrenaline levels both increase slightly every time I see a Maverick Trucking vehicle on the road (and there are lots of them – nice, clean identical chocolate brown cabs).