After Monday's 30-car pileup, now is a good time to learn how to drive in fog - East Idaho News
It could have been worse

After Monday’s 30-car pileup, now is a good time to learn how to drive in fog

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Photo: A truck rests on its side after having its bed warped and destroyed in a multiple-vehicle crash Monday on Interstate 86. Video: A look at the interstate shortly after the crash. | Photo and video by Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com

POCATELLO — After a massive crash involving three dozen vehicles, police are warning drivers to practice caution, especially in poor weather.

Idaho State Police are investigating Monday’s collision on Interstate 86 west of Pocatello, and they have determined that heaving rolling banks of fog contributed to the wreck.

Idaho State Police Lt. Mike Winans said he and his responding officers were surprised when found no fatalities at the scene of the wreck.

“I think anybody looking at the scene would be surprised,” Winans said. “With that many vehicles involved, with the freeway speeds, it really was a blessing that no one lost their life.”

RELATED | After seven hours, I-86 re-opens. Here’s what police say caused the crash involving 30 vehicles

The investigation is ongoing, and it’s unknown if anyone will be charged or receive citations. Winans said investigators are looking through the witness statements, roadway evidence and photos to determine what occurred.

“Every driver is responsible for what they do, and nobody goes out on the interstate intending to kill somebody, but through carelessness, aggressive driving and impatience, that can happen. And that’s not something we ever wanna see,” said Justin Smith, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department.

When fog becomes dangerous

“Suddenly, you really can’t see very well at all.”

I-86 crash
Courtesy Benjamin Hadfield

Smith said that when fog rolls into an area, visibility can change rapidly. On the morning of the crash, fog would sometimes allow for good visibility and then become thick and difficult to see through.

“You might have like 100 feet of visibility at first, and then suddenly, you really can’t see very well at all,” Smith said.

Winans said that when a driver is going 80 mph, they’re traveling “well over” 120 feet per second.

“So you go from good visibility to zero visibility at that speed, you’re gonna have a problem,” Winans said.

Both Winans and Smith said a motorist who sees fog ahead needs to gradually slow down. When a driver panics and slams the brakes, it often causes wrecks.

“There’s no way to tell how much visibility you’re gonna have once you’re in there,” Smith said.

“If you’re a good, cautious driver, you’ve already given yourself enough room between you and the vehicles ahead of you so that you have sufficient following distance,” Winans said.

Smith said that if you enter fog and have no visibility, you should pull completely off the road. He said stopping in the middle of the lane could cause a crash.

Winans said that in these colder months, fog is much more common. He urges people to stay up to date on weather reports and slow down, allowing themselves extra time to reach their destination.

“If you pay attention to weather reports and are familiar with driving in winter, you know how quickly road conditions can change,” Winans said.

Both Winans and Smith were surprised and happy to see that no one lost their life in the crash, but they said that it could have gone much differently.

“I’ve been to crashes where you would think that no one would suffer severe injuries, and yet there has been a loss of life,” Winans said.

“There were fully loaded semis that were involved, there were large pickups and inside of the pileup. The physics of the masses moving at the kinetic energy that they are, are astronomical,” Smith said. “We could have seen multiple fatalities.”

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