Officials plead with community to drive safer after tragic I-94 accident

NOW: Officials plead with community to drive safer after tragic I-94 accident

RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Two people were killed and two more were injured in a fiery, five-vehicle crash Wednesday.

It happened on I-94 in Racine County. The accident left traffic backed up for miles, and took hours to clear.

Marks where fire scorched the freeway are still visible Thursday. 

The section of the interstate where the crash occurred has been part of a major reconstruction project for years.

Lanes are narrower and there are no shoulders, but according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, it doesn't take much to cause a major incident.

"Unfortunately it only takes one person to create a very large incident that can basically impact thousands of people," said Michael Pyritz from the Department of Transportation.

He says tens of thousands of people travel through the interstate on a daily basis.

"It's a bad idea to be diving around looking for a coffee lid if there isn't construction," said Pyritz. "It's magnified ten times if you're in an area where there's orange barrels and construction."

Viewers on our social media pages say the 18.5 mile stretch is a nightmare and that travel between Kenosha and Milwaukee counties is a death trap.

"It's too tight to be making lane changes to begin with," said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling. "But when you start making lane changes in those areas, it causes a chain reaction and oftentimes it proves to be deadly."

Sheriff Schmaling says their calls for service along the interstate were at 523 in 2018, and slightly over 200 in 2019 so far.

"Although this is the most devastating crash I've ever witnessed in my 24 year career, we have had crashes up on the interstate in the past before the construction started," said Sheriff Schmaling. "So this isn't news in terms of new to us, rather it's just a friendly reminder of how dangerous things can be up there."

The sheriff says on average, they write citations for people driving nearly 20 miles over the speed limits.

He says Wednesday's fatal accident was a painful reminder to slow down, stay off your phones, and pay more attention.

"If you're not doing your job and paying attention and you make one mistake, you could cause a chain of events that ends people's lives."

Pyritz says the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is constantly reevaluating these work zones and seeing if they need to be adjusted for better flow of traffic.

He also added that many of these accidents could be avoided if people paid more attention.

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