News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Seven fender-benders on same street
Jan 3, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva and Katie Roenigk, Staff Writers
Riverton city workers said excess moisture was to blame for several rear-end collisions that took place Wednesday on Main Street downtown.
The incidents continued Thursday, when witnesses reported at least two fender benders between 12:45 p.m. and 1:10 p.m. near the intersection of Main and East Fifth streets. A pregnant woman complained of abdominal pain during the most-recent crash, which was the seventh to occur in the same area since about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Riverton Police Department officers who responded to the accidents requested the city address the slickness at the Main Street intersection, but lands division manager Paul Throckmartin said few options exist to combat wet pavement. He said Ice Slicer -- a chemical, granular combination intended to outperform regular, white salt -- was applied to the area last week, but Throckmartin pointed out that the incidents took place on the shady, south side of Main Street where the sun doesn't fully melt any liquid that may freeze overnight.
Throckmartin advised drivers to be extra cautious on the pavement, which may look dry despite being covered in black ice that is difficult to see.
Bill Urbigkit, Riverton's director of public works, echoed Throckmartin's comments.
"People think that because (it looks like) there's nothing there they can go the normal speed," Urbigkit said.
City workers plow Riverton roads and apply Ice Slicer after at least four inches of snow accumulates, but Urbigkit said "budgetary constraints and limited manpower" prevent snow and ice removal from all streets of Riverton. Maps available at City Hall show Riverton's sanding and plowing priorities.
Mayor Ron Warpness said the city is considering different approaches to try to tame the snow and ice on local roadways without necessarily removing the material. He said streets like Main Street are known to be "icy and slick," and he said drivers should always anticipate dangerous conditions after a big snowfall or freezing overnight temperatures.
Throckmartin said additional personnel from other city departments are being trained to help clear other areas in the city such as school zones. Urbigkit said the city plays closer attention to roads around schools and Riverton Memorial Hospital.
"We see what's working and what's not," Urbigkit said.
The icy section of road drew attention just after noon on Wednesday, when three two-vehicle accidents took place within 15 minutes of one another on downtown Main Street. Riverton Police Department Capt. C.T. Smith said a green Suzuki car rear-ended a blue Toyota 4Runner at the intersection of Main and East Fifth streets.
"The blue Toyota was stopped at the light when the little Suzuki was pulling up behind it," Riverton Police Department Capt. C.T. Smith said Thursday. "(The Suzuki) went to stop but it slid on the ice."
Both vehicles had been headed east in the inside lane of Main Street.
Smith said another rear-end accident took place on the same block and in the same lane within minutes of the first incident.
"A white Chevy van ... was remained stopped because there was an accident and traffic was not moving," Smith said. "A black Chevy Sonic tried to stop but slid on the slick conditions and then rear-ended the van."
The scenario repeated itself one more time near Broadway, where Smith said a red Dodge Avenger had stopped in the center eastbound lane of Main Street to wait for traffic to clear.
"A gold 1995 Mercury couldn't stop and hit the back of it," Smith said.
Some of the people involved in the crashes complained of minor neck pain, but Smith said everyone refused medical treatment. He did not think any vehicles had been totaled, either.
"They all drove from the scene; none were towed away," Smith said. "They were all asked to pull over into the (nearby) parking lot so we could stop being a traffic hazard."
The three accidents were followed at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday by an incident in the 500 block of East Main Street involving a 2012 Acadia and a 2002 Toyota Rav 4. Smith said someone had reported a similar collision just before 11 a.m. Wednesday in the 400 block of East Main Street where a white 1992 Ford struck a blue Toyota.
"(The Ford driver) tried to apply the brakes but slid on the slick surface and rear-ended that vehicle," Smith said.
No injuries were reported in either crash.
It's "not every day" that the RPD responds to three collisions at once, but Smith said it's not unusual for one traffic incident to lead to subsequent crashes.
"Accidents do create more accidents," Smith said.