A Missouri woman killed in a Sunday evening crash on Interstate 70 in Vigo County near the 10 mile marker became the ninth person to die this summer on a deadly stretch of the four-lane highway.
Kaylie J. Real, 25, of Miller, Missouri, died of her injuries after being taken to Terre Haute Regional Hospital. Her 4-year-old son was also taken to Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Real’s death brings to nine the total number of people killed in five crashes this year along a 60-mile stretch of I-70 between the Illinois state line and the Hendricks County, Indiana, line west of Plainfield.
Other deadly crashes occurred on May 13 involving four adults in Vigo County; July 7 involving a semi driver in Putnam County; July 18 involving two children passengers in Clay County; and July 21 involving a semi driver in Clay County.
Indiana State Police report the 5:05 p.m. crash occurred in the westbound passing lane as traffic was merging into a single lane ahead of a construction zone. Police said Real’s Chevrolet Malibu failed to reduce speed and ran into the rear of a slowed 2017 Freightliner semitrailer. The driver of the semi was not injured.
The preliminary investigation showed alcohol was not a factor.
Last year saw only one fatal crash along the same stretch of highway. Five fatalities occurred in 2015, ISP reported, and seven fatalities occurred in 2014.
State troopers have stepped up patrols, and Terre Haute police have taken to the interstate in an effort to help. Police say all of the crashes have involved some type of driver error such as speeding, following too closely, inattention or distraction.
Most of the incidents have occurred in or near construction zones. All have involved at least one driver failing to reduce speed when approaching stopped or slowed traffic, police said.
Some state and local officials are saying the highway carries enough traffic to be expanded to three lanes.
When asked if I-70 between Indianapolis and the Illinois state line should be widened to three lanes, State Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, “I think we have to.”
A legislative transportation committee is looking into issues statewide, Kersey said, and he hopes the expansion of I-70 is one of the things they will consider for the future.
“We have too much traffic between Indianapolis and Terre Haute on I-70,” Kersey said, and compounding the issue is distracted driving. “When they have to get them into one lane due to construction, it’s a mess. Everything would be fine if people would follow directions and get into one lane.”
Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing agrees that widening the interstate to three lanes is likely the only solution that could reduce congestion on I-70.
“I think the volume of traffic is just too heavy for that stretch of highway,” Ewing said.
He noted that his family traveled to a baseball tournament in Morgan County during the weekend, and many of the local parents he spoke to said they chose to take an alternate route to get to the tournament rather than drive on I-70. They cited the highway’s dangerous reputation.
Requests for comment regarding signage and safety in the construction zones were made to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
In an email, a department spokeswoman said, “In Gov. Holcomb’s State of the State address in January, he mentioned adding a lane to I-70 is a priority as well as other infrastructure projects. The long term road funding plan gives INDOT the tools and flexibility to begin planning for this, however there are no timelines yet.
“We definitely share the concern for safety on I-70. One life lost on a roadway is one too many.”
After any serious crash resulting in hospitalization or the loss of life, including those occurring in work zones, INDOT engineers review the crash and look into all the factors involved, said Debbie Calder, INDOT’s communication director.
INDOT will continue to work closely with the Indiana State Police and local law enforcement to patrol the work zones frequently, she said.