GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Three quarters of the roads with the most winter-weather crashes statewide are located in West Michigan.
Seven stretches of I-94 in Van Buren County dominated a list of Michigan’s top 20 most crash-prone stretches when roads are snowy, icy or slushy.
Westbound I-94 between 46th and 50th Streets earned the top spot in the state with a total of 66 crashes over the last five winter seasons. That stretch of I-94 is approximately 40 miles west of the site of the 193-vehicle pileup that killed one driver and shut down the highway for two days last winter.
Several other highways in West Michigan also made the list including US-31, US-131, I-196 and three stretches of I-96 in Ottawa County. Eastbound I-96 from the I-96 crossover to 68th Avenue ranked fourth in the state with a total of 58 accidents from November to March for the last five years.
The only three non-highway roads to make the list are also located in West Michigan. Sprinkle Road between East Michigan and East Main ranked second statewide, with a total of 64 accidents over five winters, from 2010 to 2015. Stadium Drive between Ramble Road and Howard Street in Kalamazoo ranked 18th in the state, while 44th Street between Applewood Drive and Breton Road SE in Kent County ranked 19th.
The top 20 list was compiled by Michigan Auto Law, a Farmington Hills-based law firm that specializes in automobile accidents:
Van Buren County
- WB I-94 between 50th and 46th Street in Lawrence Twp.: 66 crashes
- WB I-94 between 62nd Street and County Road 681 in Hartford Twp.: 63 crashes
- EB I-94 between 41st Street and Paw Paw Road in Paw Paw: 58 crashes
- EB I-94 between 62nd Street and County Road 681 in Hartford Twp.: 50 crashes
- EB I-94 between County Road 653 and I-94 crossover in Antwerp Twp.: 44 crashes
- EB I-94 between I-94 crossover and 64th Street in Hartford Twp.: 40 crashes
- EB I-94 between 50th and 46th Street in Lawrence Twp.: 37 crashes
- WB I-196 between Lane Avenue NW and WB I-196/2nd ramp in Grand Rapids: 40 crashes
- SB US-131 between US-131/54th ramp and US-131/44th ramp in Wyoming: 38 crashes
- 44th Street SE between Applewood Drive SE and Breton Road SE in Grand Rapids: 35 crashes
- EB I-96 between I-96 crossover and 68th Avenue in Polkton Twp.: 58 crashes
- WB I-96 between I-96 crossover and 24th Avenue in Wright Twp.: 49 crashes
- EB I-96 between I-96 crossover and 24th Avenue in Wright Twp.: 45 crashes
- Sprinkle Road between E. Michigan Avenue and E. Main Street in Comstock Twp.: 64 crashes
- Stadium Drive between Rambling Road and Howard Street in Kalamazoo: 36 crashes
- SB US-31 between I-96 and Sternberg Road in Norton Shores: 44 crashes
- SB US-131 between 126th and 129th Avenue in Wayland Twp.: 35 crashes
- WB I-69 between WB I-69/Hammerburg ramp and Fenton Road in Flint: 38 crashes
- NB I-475 between S. Grand Traverse Street and Hemphill Road in Flint: 37 crashes
- EB I-94 between N US-127 and N Clinton/E I-94 ramp in Blackman Twp.: 37 crashes
The list looked at “road segments” only, which experts define as any stretch of public road. Segments can be of varying lengths, but usually run one mile or less.
“When looking at stretches of public roads and highways in Michigan, it comes as no surprise that most of these road segments are major freeways throughout the state,” said Steven Gursten of Michigan Auto Law. “With varying speeds, commercial trucks and on/off ramps, freeways pose many hazards in winter conditions.”
The impact of lake effect snow on the west side of the state also played a big role in earning West Michigan roads 17 of the spots on the top 20 list.
Also, many of the highway stretches on the list run through wide open, rural areas, with fewer barriers to block the wind. That can lead to treacherous roads because wind makes ice form faster and whips snow into drifts with little warning.
Gursten hopes the list will serve as a reminder of how critical it is that drivers slow down when conditions warrant it.
The Michigan Department of Transportation is also urging drivers to use caution.
“Monday was a great example of how treacherous and sporadic the weather can be for driving,” said MDOT spokesperson John Richard.
“I was in communication with our winter maintenance folks throughout the day and the reports greatly varied,” said Richard. “A slight shift in the wind can change everything.”
As for the top 20 list, Richard pointed out that police records show the higher number of crashes on those stretches were the “direct result of weather, traffic volumes and driver behavior.”
Indeed, the rankings do not take into account the increased volume of traffic on highways, nor the severity of the crashes in terms of injuries.
Last winter, Target 8 investigators worked with the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit to map the locations of fatal and serious injury accidents in winter conditions.
Target 8 found that the majority of fatal accidents occurred on rural, county roads, not highways.
Michigan Auto Law also worked with MSP’s traffic crash reporting unit to compile its top 20 list.
Researchers only counted crashes that occurred when police reports described road conditions as “snowy, icy or slushy.”
You can search MSP’s award-winning traffic crash database yourself. It allows you to filter results based on multiple factors, including location of accident and various driver characteristics.