MSP: Driver went wrong way for miles before deadly 131 crash

US-131, wrong-way crash
The scene of an apparent wrong-way crash on US-131 near 28th Street. (Feb. 23, 2017)


WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) –- A wrong-way driver involved in a deadly US-131 crash traveled south in the northbound lanes for 2.5 miles before the crash, according to Michigan State Police.

Jane Slotsema
An undated photo of Jane Slotsema courtesy her online obituary from Zaagman Memorial Chapel.

MSP believes 25-year-old Jane Slotsema entered US-131 at the Franklin Street exit ramp Thursday evening. Her vehicle eventually hit a car head-on near the 28th Street exit. Slotsema and the other driver, 27-year-old Jonathon Yarrington, died at the scene.

It’s not yet clear why Slotsema was driving the wrong way. Police are waiting for toxicology reports, which could take weeks, to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor.

The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A WRONG-WAY DRIVER

Since the crash happened, viewers have reached out to 24 Hour News 8 asking how to best protect to protect themselves if confronted with a wrong-way driver.

Randy Rand is a local driving instructor who runs Jungle Survival Drivers Training and has served as an accident reconstructionist for years. He knows how dangerous the road can be.

“It’s like a blink of an eye. That’s all it takes for a collision,” Rand said while taking 24 Hour News 8 on a ridealong in Kent County. “See all those marks on the guardrail? Every one of those is a story.”

It’s crashes like Thursday’s that gave him nightmares.

An undated courtesy photo of Jonathon Miles Yarrington.
An undated courtesy photo of Jonathon Miles Yarrington.

“That poor man,” Rand said of Yarrington. “That guy coming down the road. Going to work like all of us do. Really, there’s no way he could’ve prevented that because he wasn’t anticipating that.”

While there are still many unknowns in that crash, Rand says anticipation is vital if a car is coming straight at you. Every second matters.

“70 miles an hour is a third of a football field every second. So he was totally taken by surprise,” Rand said of Yarrington.

Avoiding a wrong-way crash — or any crash — starts with a mindset, Rand said. That’s why he teaches what he calls ‘situational’ driving, a step up from defensive driving. Every situation is different, so there’s no one answer to preventing a crash. Rand said the key is in what you do well before a collision happens.

“You have to learn how to aim high in steering. That’s the bottom line. Most people just look at what’s right in front of their car,” Rand said. “You want to get in a situation where you don’t have to swerve, where you have control of the space in front of you, where you’re looking up the road anticipating the what ifs.”

If it comes down to it, Rand said swerving is quicker than braking — but again, that means you have to be aware of the drivers alongside you.

To be a more alert driver, Rand suggested a ‘commentary drive,’ where you actually talk about what you’re seeing on the roads. He also advises that everyone pull away cellphones and other distractions.

Rand said if you encounter a wrong-way driver on a slower, city street, you should stop, flash your lights and put your hazards on.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the crash happened Sunday. It actually happened Thursday. The text has been updated.