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ISSUE: Recent crashes
OUR VIEW: Wrecks often involve commercial vehicles
It is one of Kentucky’s most heavily traveled and dangerous highways. The high speed commerce, commuting and casual vehicle traffic that circulates north and south along Interstate 65’s corridor on a daily basis regularly collides, and too often with violent and deadly results.
So far, March has been yet another month where tragic crashes have caused serious injury and fatality on the stretch running through this region.
Thursday’s crash involving two semi-trucks at Bonnieville marked at least the fourth time this month where serious crashes have required emergency response. Police say one truck driver crossed the northbound lanes near mile-marker 71, striking a second commercial tractor-trailer parked along the right-hand shoulder of the highway. The driver was ejected from his rig, suffering serious injuries.
Earlier this month, the driver of a northbound commercial tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of an SUV near mile marker 83 in Sonora on a Saturday morning. The impact of the crash caused the Ford Expedition to burst into flames and collide with another vehicle. The driver of the semi-truck was uninjured. Those inside the SUV were not as fortunate.
Six members of a Marion, Wis., family who were returning home from a trip to Orlando, Fla., were killed in the fiery crash. Dead are a husband and wife, three of their children and a family friend. Ages of the victims ranged from 8 to 92 years old. Two children, a 12- and a 15-year-old, survived the crash but with very serious injury.
While Kentucky State Police and emergency response crews were responding, another chain-reaction crash occurred in the southbound lanes just minutes later. This crash, too, involved a commercial tractor-trailer rear-ending a pickup truck causing it to crash into the rear of another vehicle. The driver of the pick-up sustained serious, but not-life threatening injuries. The occupants of the third vehicle were treated and released from the hospital.
Just two days following these March 2 crashes, another multi-vehicle pile-up occurred on a Monday afternoon. This six-vehicle collision, including two commercial tractor-trailers and two vans, occurred along the southbound lanes of I-65 near mile-marker 94 and shut down traffic for more than two hours while the wreckage was cleared and the injured airlifted for treatment.
It has been more than two years since Gov. Steve Beshear said, “We’ve got to make the safety of I-65 a priority.”
The governor made that statement when announcing plans to extend median crossover barriers along a 13-mile stretch of I-65 between mile-markers 67 and 80. Since then, the state has spent millions in this and other ongoing improvement projects to enhance safety along I-65 in and nearby our county.
But serious crashes and fatalities continue to occur.
Commonalities among these serious accidents that have been reported on these pages have been commercial tractor-trailers. That shouldn’t be surprising considering I-65 gets its fair share of commercial traffic. And don’t assume the trucker is at fault. These massive vehicles require exceptional stopping distance and too often motorists dart around and between the semis as if they were playing the classic arcade game Frogger.
While the Transportation Cabinet continues its efforts to widen the highway and incorporate cable and concrete barriers into its safety improvements, more should be done to determine if increased commercial traffic enforcement is necessary to increase safety and reduce wrecks.
Until those determinations are made, observing speed limit restrictions, paying closer attention to the road and other drivers around us, observing and reacting to changing environmental conditions, and removing other distractions in the vehicle must be something we all give attention to this deadly stretch of roadway.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.