PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 60 drivers will be ticketed following the 193-vehicle pileups on I-94, according to Michigan State Police.
The crashes happened Jan. 9 on I-94 west of Battle Creek, killing one person and injuring 22 others. The wrecks spanned about 1,400 feet — longer than four football fields. It took MSP two and a half months to sort out exactly what happened, and they released the results of their investigation Thursday.
“We looked at the photographs, the video footage. We took the driver statements into account, their passenger statements into account, as well as witnesses statements. And we went over those several times to make sure that we had it right,” MSP Paw Paw Post Commander 1st Lt. Dale Hinz told 24 Hour News 8.
MSP said a total of 58 drivers will be cited for driving too fast for road conditions. That includes 12 drivers of commercial vehicles and nine drivers of passenger vehicles in the eastbound crash, and 18 drivers of commercial vehicles and 19 drivers of passenger vehicles in the westbound crash.
Five other drivers were ticketed for other citations, including driving without insurance, no operator’s license and driving with an improper registration plate.
Citations are being mailed or delivered beginning Thursday, according to a release from MSP. MSP said the citations aren’t a punishment — they’re just the law.
“While I would expect people aren’t going to be excited when they receive a citation in the mail, I also expect they’re going to realize they were driving too fast for conditions,” Hinz said.
“We really need motorists to realize that even when roadway conditions and driving conditions are severe like they were on January 9th … we really need folks to take responsibility for their driving habits,” Hinz said.
Police said the wrecks started in the eastbound lanes when a semi-truck rear-ended a van. The van then hit another car and the guardrail, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the highway.
The crash in the eastbound lanes was further complicated when a tanker hauling 44,600 pounds of liquid formic acid overturned next to a semi-truck loaded with 40,000 pounds of fireworks, forcing an evacuation order. In total, 60 vehicles, many of them semis, were involved in the eastbound crash.
A truck driver from Canada was killed in the eastbound wreck when a semi rear-ended a vehicle hauling a car trailer.
Police said the westbound crash happened between three and five minutes later and involved a total of 133 vehicles. It was caused by drivers who were distracted by the crash on the other side of the highway.
A stretch of the highway was closed for two days while crews worked to remove the damaged vehicles and hazardous materials.
In total, 18 people from seven states and Canada were treated for injuries. Five emergency services workers were also treated for minor injuries sustained during the response to the crash.
“It is truly amazing when you look at the scope of this that we only had that number of injuries,” Hinz told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.
Due to the large amount of commercial vehicles involved in the crashes, MSP will be working with the Michigan Truck Safety Commission, and its Canadian counterpart, to raise awareness among commercial drivers in hopes of preventing future crashes.
Hinz said new dashcam video from a semi involved in the pileups shows how keeping a safe distance and speed can save drivers from a crunch. In it, a semi pulls to the right shoulder while over vehicles come from behind and crash into the pileup.
“You can see he’s able to react to the crash in front of him,” he said.
24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.