According to a St. Cloud Times article (January 6, 2010)
"The driver of a roadside service truck was seriously injured Tuesday night after a pickup struck his vehicle.The article says the pickup driver "was not able to react in time to avoid striking the service truck, according to the patrol."
"Michael D. Willhite, 49, of Sauk Centre was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital after the crash was reported at 9:27 p.m. on Interstate Highway 94, two miles east of Melrose.
"The service truck was traveling west when it was struck from behind, according to the State Patrol. The truck was slowing down in the right lane arriving at a service call that was on the right shoulder. The patrol said a semitrailer had stalled...."
And, that as of Wednesday last week, the patrol was still investigating the accident.
Why Write About This?First, my condolences to relatives and friends of Mr. Willhite.
Second, without making any assumptions about how this accident happened: something to think about.
I haven't heard the term, "highway hypnosis" for a long, long time. And it's been a while since I read anything about driver fatigue or other safety concerns in the news. Not that I was looking for that sort of thing.
I do, however, drive fairly often, on and off the Interstate. And once in a while I notice a driver whose front bumper is awfully close to the back of the next vehicle. The word was "tailgating" in my youth. Tailgate parties: no problem. Tailgating on the road? It was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now.
I've gotten to close to a leading vehicle myself - it can happen. But it's one of the things on my 'don't do this' list.
Back Off: You Can Live With Three SecondsAt the risk of sounding like a killjoy, I suggest backing off.
If you're in a hurry, particularly on the Interstate, you've got the option of passing the vehicle in front of you. That's what the "left" lane is for. Obviously, on two-way roads, some extra care should be taken to make sure you don't run into someone coming the other way.
If you can't pass, or don't feel like it: be far enough back so that you can count off three seconds between the time the lead vehicle passes an object, and you do. Not my idea: It's from MinnDot. They suggest saying "one Minnesota, two Minnesota, three Minnesota" - but just about any three-or-four-syllable word between the numbers will do.
You can have lightning reflexes and all that - but at some point physics and biology make it simply impossible to stop in time. The fellow behind Mike Willhite may have had a fast reaction time, too, you know.
- "BE SAFE - BACK OFF"
Highway 55 Tailgating Safety Project, Minnesota Department of Transportation (December 2006)
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