Fatal crashes highlight dangers of following too closely on highwaysThree people have died in two rear-end crashes on Interstate 94 in two days, highlighting the danger of high-speed travel on crowded highways.
By: By Christena T. O'Brien, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
Three people have died in two rear-end crashes on Interstate 94 in two days, highlighting the danger of high-speed travel on crowded highways.
Late Tuesday night a westbound semitrailer truck driven by Brian L. Paglusch, 43, of Minnesota rear-ended another semi driven by Destry D. Wilson, 22, of California at 11:15 p.m. near Menomonie, resulting in a fire. Paglusch was pronounced dead at the scene.
Law enforcement officers believe Wilson's semi had just pulled onto I-94 from the rest area east of Menomonie and was traveling slowly or was stopped on the interstate at the time of the crash, said State Patrol Lt. Jeff Lorentz, noting Wilson was arrested. Further details about the arrest were not available.
In a crash earlier this week, an eastbound SUV with four New Richmond teens slammed into the back of a semitrailer truck stopped as traffic backed up because of an approaching construction zone near Roberts.
Two teens -- Joshua J. Goodrich, 17, and Jordan M. Johnson, 16 -- died in the crash, which occurred at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Two others -- driver Zachary D. Zajec, 17, and Thomas J. Wanless, 17 -- were injured.
The crashes remain under investigation, and inattentive driving and driver reaction time possibly played a role in both, Lorentz said.
He and others hope other motorists take away valuable lessons from the fatalities.
"Drivers need to pay attention," said Sgt. Dave Fish of the State Patrol. "Today there is too much in the car to keep us occupied and preoccupied, (including cell phones, GPS devices and other passengers)," he said. "We need to focus on the road."
The teens involved in the crash near Roberts passed signs along I-94 warning motorists of construction ahead and telling them to be prepared to stop, said Lorentz, noting distractions can make it easy to miss those.
"We've all been there," the veteran law-enforcement officer said. "(You get distracted and then) you look up and see the taillights (of another vehicle) ahead of you."
Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone collision, according to state Department of Transportation officials. Drivers who follow other vehicles too closely are at risk of getting into a potentially serious crash or receiving a ticket.
Under state law, it's illegal to "follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent."
Conditions in construction zones often change, and drivers need to be on the lookout for that, Fish said.
Many motorists, especially those traveling on roadways with higher speeds like I-94 and U.S. 53, also need to give themselves adequate room to stop or react if something happens in front of them, he said.
The DOT recommends motorists allow no less than two seconds between their vehicles and the one ahead of them during the day; three seconds at night; and four seconds during inclement weather.
Marty Fadness and Kenneth Sigurdson, who operate driving schools in Eau Claire, recommend allowing three to four seconds between vehicles during the day.
"The greater the cushion you put between yourself and the car ahead of you the better your chances are (of avoiding a crash)," said Fadness, owner of Safety & Respect Driving School.
The faster a motorist is driving, the longer it takes to stop his or her vehicle, said Fish, noting other factors, including the brake, tire and pavement conditions and vehicle weight, also play a role in the amount of time it takes for a car or truck to stop.
"Everybody is always in a hurry," said Sigurdson of All A's Driving School, who talks to his students about planning ahead, so they don't need to rush.
He and Fadness also advise motorists to reduce their risk of being in a crash by limiting distractions while driving, traveling at the posted speed limit and wearing their seat belts.
"There is enough risk in driving by us just hopping in the car," Fadness aid. "If you add to that risk ... your chances of being in a crash increase."
O'Brien can be reached at 715-830-5838, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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