VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Everyday, many of us travel on a portion of the nation’s more than 4-million miles of public roads, but some of those roads and the actions of drivers can prove deadly.
(SEE MAPS BELOW SHOWING WHERE CRASHES OCCUR IN YOUR COUNTY.)
Emma Lockard, 21, was three months pregnant when the car she was driving collided with a semi at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Old U.S. 41 near Oaktown in Knox County back in 2012.
“The semi trailer literally had to be cut in half and lifted by a couple of wreckers off of the victims’ car,” then Knox County Sheriff Mike Morris said.
Also killed in that fiery crash were Emma’s two children, Annaleigh Hunt, 2, and Noah Hunt, 1. Emma’s cousin and a family friend were also killed.
Autopsy results showed they all died of smoke inhalation.
“In the 31 years in law enforcement and the 31 years in the sheriff’s office, this is probably the worst crash as far as magnitude and trauma that I can personally say I’ve seen,” Morris added.
Authorities said this was the second crash at that intersection that day.
According to Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Jason Tiller, a fatal crash automatically triggers a traffic study of a location like the intersection near Oaktown.
“We began to look at that and seeing that it was consistent, it wasn’t just freak accidents. This wasn’t just something that was happening by chance one in awhile,” Tiller explained. “There had been a significant crash history there and a significant history of violent crashes.”
Two years ago INDOT made changes to the intersection. It now includes what’s called a “J” turn.
Tiller said this change helps prevent a car from being T-boned, because those crashes can be more serious.
There are lots of different ways INDOT keeps watch over road safety. They look at crash data, watch areas that are growing in size and population and people submit concerns about problem areas.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is a state agency that keeps track of crash data.
The group’s studies pinpoint where crashes occur and contributing factors such as speeding, not wearing a seat belt, time of day and distracted driving.
“Everything we do here at the Criminal Justice Institute is data driven,” Executive Director Devon McDonald said. “Speeding has become a national issue. We saw a pretty substantial increase in the number of triple digit speeding citations, so people going in excess of a hundred miles per hour.”
The data also shows crashes in rural areas are more likely to be deadly. Part of the reason for that is because drivers hit things like trees. Drivers are also less likely to be wearing a seat belt, but McDonald said wearing a seat belt is very important.
“It’s the best primary prevention that you can do as far as preventing, injury in the case of a crash,” said McDonald.
The following maps come from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute in partnership with Indiana University Policy Institute. They show where crashes and fatal accidents occurred in the Wabash Valley according to the “Indiana Traffic Safety Facts 2019” County Profiles.