South Dakota Official Blames Highway Elevation Change for Car Accidents

January 11, 2016

A county official says an elevation change on a highway in South Dakota’s Day County is partly responsible for the high accident rate along that stretch.

Day County Emergency Management director Wes Williams calls the area going east from Andover to a curve along U.S. Highway 12 the “devil’s triangle” because of its danger.

“If there’s ever snow or ice, it appears there first,” Williams said. “I’m a retired Highway Patrol trooper, and over the years, there’s been accidents there.”

The South Dakota Department of Transportation says that there’s a 200-foot change in elevation over the course of 3 1/2 miles on that section of highway. Williams said he has responded to numerous reports of vehicles in the ditch by the Wheat Growers elevators.

“I’ve been over there and been in a ditch myself in a patrol car,” Williams said. “I’ve never had a crash or hit something, but I do know that it’s not a good area.”

Mark Christensen, who provides Day County’s ambulance services, said he has responded to more traffic accidents on that curve than any other roadway in the county. He spoke about the high rate of problems along the curve during the Day County Commission meeting last month after his ambulance service contract was renewed, The American News reported

In a phone interview, Christensen said a majority of contributing factors are “alcohol or operator error.” He said the curves are at a wide angle, and that he doesn’t think “people are paying attention.”

Even drivers who are attentive, he said, might not anticipate the sudden presence of snow and ice with the higher elevation. It’s a “nasty area,” he said.

“You could be coming out of the Bristol area and it can be fine, then you hit the curves and it’s black ice,” he said. “You can run into snow, too. There is a definite change there at any given time that drivers are not aware of.”

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Latest Comments

  • January 11, 2016 at 1:33 pm
    reality bites says:
    Seems more likely to me that after all those miles of straight and flat driving, folks forget how to turn the wheel.
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