TERRE HAUTE —
The statistics tell a grim story about traffic safety on Interstate 70 through west-central Indiana in 2012. With the freeway undergoing badly needed and long-overdue reconstruction, obstacles to smooth vehicular flow are abundant, and the risks of dangerous crashes are high. The result has been numerous accidents and 10 fatalities.
The most recent incident, near the Cloverdale exit in Putnam County, killed a mother and her 3-year-old child. The father was critically injured. The tragedy of this and other multi-vehicle crashes is as maddening as it is unnecessary.
As has been reported in many of the crashes this year, this one was caused by driver inattention in and around a construction zone. With heavy traffic moving slowly, all it takes is for one driver to make a mistake, to have his or her attention diverted, to become distracted. The results can be devastating.
Both the Indiana State Police and Indiana Department of Transportation have shown a degree of exasperation with these repeated crashes along the stretch between the Illinois border and the I-70 Plainfield exit in Hendricks County. But they contend there isn’t much more they can do.
That may be so, but we urge them to keep trying. While signage and patrols may seem more than adequate, taking more drastic steps to raise driver awareness and slow traffic would certainly do no harm.
Meanwhile, drivers must acknowledge that they are ultimately responsible for avoiding distractions, obeying speed laws, anticipating problems and not taking risks that could lead to disaster.
INDOT would add the following advice:
• Stay alert.
• Pay attention to signage.
• Merge gradually so that traffic patterns are smooth and orderly.
• Slow down and be ready for what’s up ahead.
• Avoid tailgating. Maintain a safe distance on all sides of your vehicle.
• Put down your cell phones, CDs and coffee when approaching construction zones. Those are primary causes of distraction.
• Plan ahead. Expect delays. Allow extra time. Select an alternate route.
The construction season will end soon. Meanwhile, remain vigilant. Be safe.