February 1, 2012

As more details emerge about last week’s pileup on Interstate 75, it gets harder to believe that we will ever know exactly what happened. The series of accidents occurred on a stretch of road shrouded by fog and smoke that rolled in quickly. Though the crashes weren’t in this state, the circumstances are familiar to many in Oregon.

In our last post we talked about the state patrol’s role in closing roads when visibility is low. News coverage of the fatal crashes originally said the decision lay with troopers on the road and a supervisor back at headquarters. It turns out that the information was not entirely accurate. Those decisions often involve higher-ups, including the lieutenant governor.

The section of I-75 we are talking about runs north/south in Florida. Because the state has a history of fires and is often troubled by fog, the highway patrol has instituted policies and procedures to deal with visibility problems. A number of agencies work together to evaluate the information gathered from different sources — including the Low Visibility Occurrence Risk Index – and they follow a checklist once the decision has been made. The list includes things like notifying other agencies and figuring out detours.

This is more than most states do — more than the federal government, in fact. And critics are beginning to call for change. They argue states or the federal government should have guidelines that would leave less to perception.

Guidelines don’t exist at the federal level. The Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have no standard process to steer troopers or other local agencies through road closings for fog, fire and dust storms. There is no baseline data, aside from the LVORI, that provides an objective measure of risk.

This may change as a result of the I-75 accidents. Survivors may make sure it changes.


CBSNews.com, “Few guidelines exist on when to shut down roads,” Curt Anderson, Mark Carlson, Greg Bluestein and David Sharp, Feb. 1, 2012

Ocala.com, “Anatomy of a tragedy: I-75 crashes,” Cindy Swirko, Feb. 4, 2012


Categories: Blog