Wrong-way on the freeway: Dozens of crashes each year


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While they’re relatively unusual, dozens of people crash each year while going the wrong way on Michigan freeways.

Two people were killed in one such crash on US-131 in metro Grand Rapids last week. Michigan State Police said 911 calls started coming in Thursday evening reporting a driver heading south in the northbound lanes near Burton Street.

About a mile down the road near the 28th Street exit, the wrong-way vehicle crashed head-on with another vehicle. Both drivers died at the scene. The at-fault driver was identified as 25-year-old Jane Slotsema. The other driver was 27-year-old Jonathon Yarrington.

MSP tracks wrong-way crashes and reports that 71 of them happened on freeways in 2015, the most recent data readily available. One of those resulted in a fatality. In 2014, there were 73 wrong-way freeway crashes, 11 of which resulted in deaths.

The data showed no particular rhyme or reason for the crashes. Most of them did not involve alcohol or drugs.

In 2015, 21 of the wrong-way crashes were reported to have involved alcohol and/or drugs. In 2014, 26 fell into that category.

In 2015, 20 of the 71 crashes involved drivers under the age of 24, while 21 involved drivers older than 60.

The Michigan Department of Transportation investigates after crashes of this nature to see if there’s anything structurally that could prevent drivers from making a wrong-way error. The agency has made changes to signage and traffic control in some instances but in others found no changes were necessary.

Police have said little about what went wrong before Thursday’s crash. If they know how the driver got onto the highway, they haven’t released that information publicly. MSP said Monday that the investigation into the crash and the circumstances around it continued.

Secretary of State officials on Monday released Slotsema’s driving record pursuant to a 24 Hour News 8 request. It did not include any reportable infractions in the past three years.

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