GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Another wrong-way crash on US-131 took the life of a Byron Center man early Sunday morning.
Around 8:30 a.m., a 30-year-old Grand Rapids man driving south in the northbound lanes struck a northbound vehicle head-on, killing its driver, a 63-year-old Byron Center man.
“It was a very, very tragic situation,” Lt. Michelle Robinson of Michigan State Police told News 8 Sunday afternoon.
The crash happened just south of Burton Street, closing the northbound lanes at 28th Street for hours.
Robinson said it’s unclear where the wrong-way driver got on the freeway and how long he was going in the wrong direction. He was taken to the hospital where he was last reported to be in critical condition.
MSP believes alcohol was a factor in the crash.
“Often times there is alcohol or drugs involved, and that impairs someone’s judgement when they’re on the freeway,” Robinson said.
“Find a designated driver,” she added. “We can never encourage that enough. There’s public transportation out there, friends. Just please don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve been drinking.”
Since January 2022, there have been nine wrong-way crashes in Kent County. Five of them were on US-131 near Grand Rapids.
One crash last month left three people seriously injured. Another crash in March of 2022 in Wyoming was fatal.
“There really isn’t anything law enforcement can proactively do,” Robinson said. “We rely on the motorists. If somebody does end up on the freeway in the wrong direction, hopefully they realize quickly they’re in the wrong direction, and they pull off on the side of the road. But often, if you do have those alcohol issues involved, they’re not thinking clearly in order to pull over to the side of the road.”
In addition to putting more wrong-way signs in place, MDOT has added sensors flashing LED lights, warning drivers they’re going the wrong way. The technology also alerts MDOT officials to notify police.
Robinson said if you see something, say something as soon as possible because it could save lives.
“If you’re a motorist and you see an individual traveling in the wrong direction, call 911 right away,” Robinson said. “If you can pull off to the side of the road, that would be great to keep yourself safe. And give a vehicle description.”
She also emphasized the wrong-way signs are “very well-marked” and drivers should follow GPS to make sure they’re going the right way.
“It really is just being aware of your surroundings and making sure you’re going in the right direction,” Robinson said.
Since police are still trying to figure out where the wrong-way driver got on the freeway Sunday morning, it’s unclear if there was an MDOT sensor at the ramp.
Robinson encouraged any witnesses to contact MSP at 616-866-4111.