Highway to the Danger Zone

By: Jason Colthorp
By: Jason Colthorp

Friday's fatal rush hour accident on U.S. 127 is the latest reason to lower the speed limit back to 55.

Probably headed up north for a weekend lake getaway, a driver of an SUV made a choice that cost him his life and maybe that of his passenger.  He died on U.S. 127 just north of the Trowbridge Exit and I know exactly what was going through his mind when he made his fatal mistake. 

I've driven 127 for many years and take that stretch everyday on my way home from work.  If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a stretch of about two-tenths of a mile that has two lanes that quickly become four-- two going toward I-496 West and two going toward 127 North.  But if you're in the left lane, you have to get over to catch the left lane of 127, something many drivers do to get around the suddenly slowing traffic for the hard turn.  That turn to the left on 127 quickly becomes a turn to the right so slowing down always happens.  The danger is that experienced drivers on that stretch know you have a few extra seconds to get over at the last second before you're cut off and forced to follow 496.  I have seen many dangerous close calls when drivers try to gun it and get over usually causing drivers behind them to shoot them a hand gesture.  Just last week, I was caught in that lane trying to get over and the vehicles on my left and right both started inching into my lane.  I don't know if they didn't see me or what, but I hit the gas and got past them and over and onto 127 North.  Because of this, I usually anticipate people to make bad decisions in this area-- because they always do. 

Hopefully, you're getting my point that this is a dangerous area.  Now consider this:  the speed limit through here used to be 55.  It was raised late last year to 70 when the speed limit on 496 was raised.  At 55, it was still a dangerous area, but when the speed increased, all I could think was how many more accidents will happen-- especially in the winter.  Accidents caused by drivers who think they have to go 70 through a tight turn, drivers who don't know the area and don't know how congested and tight it becomes so quickly, drivers who don't allow for conditions like snow and rain. 

As soon as it was raised, I pitched a story in our news meeting about talking to police to see what they think about this and regard for public safety, yada yada yada.  I pitched it again in the winter after a semi went into the guardrail shortly after another accident there.

Fast forward to Friday, August 22.  A guy hauling a boat is caught in the left lane trying to stay on 127.  He tries to hustle and get over.  He has to get around a gas tanker truck, but his trailer's rear wheel gets caught on the front of the semi, who has to try something drastic to save an accident.  It doesn't happen as the tanker flips on top of the SUV, killing the driver and possibly his passenger, too and spilling the fuel haul all over the highway.  If memory serves me correctly, it was the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) that decided to raise that speed limit.  I want to know who in his right mind would suggest it and who with the local police departments would support it?  It is absolutely one of the stupidest things I've ever seen in this area and whoever is responsible for it didn't take any consideration for public safety into account.  That curve was already a death trap and increasing the speed limit in that area by 15 miles an hour is insanity.

How many more people have to die before someone realizes that U.S. 127 between Trowbridge Road and Lake Lansing should be a 55 MPH speed zone or less?  One?  Five?  Ten?

Until the powers that be do what they get paid to, I implore anyone driving this area to slow it down.  It may save someone's life-- including your own.

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