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NEAR BRANDON, S.D. (KELO) — 22-year-old Brooke Thompson’s life was cut short this week, when a truck driver rear-ended her SUV. Thompson was nearly stopped in the passing lane on Tuesday morning as traffic was merging for the road construction ahead.
A box truck was in the driving lane, when it hit another SUV, swerved and hit Thompson’s vehicle and another car.
South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Hogan regularly patrols this area. While he couldn’t talk with KELOLAND News about this specific crash, Hogan took us through the area to point out dangers for drivers.
“When you see orange up ahead, the cones, the signs, the yellow lights, the time to slow down isn’t right when you get up there; it’s right away to start making adjustments to your speed,” Hogan said.
He says earlier is better to slow down and to look for openings to change lanes.
“A lot of times we see people just wait until the last minute and then they’re trying to change lanes because there’s other traffic,” Hogan said.
In the latest numbers, work zone fatalities are up three percent; this as overall fatal crashes are down. In 2017, there were 799 fatalities in work zones across the country, according to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. South Dakota is not following the national trend.
Hogan says there are often three factors in these work zone crashes:
The speed limit is reduced in work zones and fines often double. Hogan says people often do not slow down for those slower speeds.
“Even at the lower speed limits, you don’t have to go at that speed,” Hogan said. “Drive for the conditions. If there are more people out, and more traffic, you might have to go slower than that.”
Following too closely
Many times, Hogan says drivers are assuming the flow of traffic won’t be impacted by the upcoming work zone.
Hogan explains that 1.6 seconds is vital.
“A lot of times, traffic is moving at a good pace and it doesn’t appear that there’s going to be any change in the flow, but in an instant, it can suddenly slow or stop. That’s where people get into trouble,” Hogan said.
Some work zones can be very distracting. People often are looking at construction workers.
We drove through the work zone at the Brandon exit on I-90 and you can see how many different distractions are happening around the trooper’s vehicle (Note: the video was sped up).
Where are the deadly crashes?
I-90 stretches more than 400 miles in South Dakota from the Wyoming to Minnesota border.
KELOLAND News went county-by-county along I-90 and analyzed crash data to see where a majority of the deadly crashes happen. In the past four years, Minnehaha County has the most number of deaths on I-90. Pennington and Meade Counties come in 2nd and 3rd.
That number could increase as more people drive.
The area where the crash happened east of Sioux Falls this week is growing. Last year, an average of 11,435 vehicles drove in this section of I-90 every day, according to traffic counters. That number is expected to grow to nearly 17,000 by 2038, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
“Any of the areas where there’s higher traffic, there’s a higher chance of accidents,” Hogan said.
As traffic continues to increase in the area, Hogan says he and other Sioux Falls-area troopers will be monitoring.
“So we’re going to work those areas to make them a little safer by enforcing the traffic laws and people get reminded by just seeing our cars out there,” Hogan said. “That reminds them to pay attention to their driving and follow the rules of the road.”
As for Tuesday’s crash, charges are pending for the truck driver, according to South Dakota Highway Patrol.
Seatbelts were worn by everyone involved. The driver of another car involved in the crash received serious non-life threatening injuries, according to authorities. A passenger of the truck also received minor injuries.
A visitation for Thompson will be held on Sunday from 2-6 p.m. at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Luverne, MN. A funeral mass will be Monday at 2 p.m. at the church. A GoFundMe has been set up in Thompson’s memory for a memorial scholarship to help future figure skaters at the Blue Mound Figure Saking club.