The danger zones: Last year's accidents along Highway 10 reveal
What do Beyonc? and the stretch of Highway 10 between Lake Park and Frazee have in common? They're both dangerously curvy. The stretch of highway has totaled cars and even claimed lives, but is there a pattern to these accidents? Are more areas r...
What do Beyoncé and the stretch of Highway 10 between Lake Park and Frazee have in common? They're both dangerously curvy. The stretch of highway has totaled cars and even claimed lives, but is there a pattern to these accidents? Are more areas riskier than others? And, if so, what can be done about it?
In the last year, the Minnesota State Patrol has reported 14 conclusive accidents with injuries along Highway 10 between Lake Park and Frazee (a 23.4 mile spans) and, of those 14, 10 occurred within two stretches that are both roughly three to four miles long.
Six of the 14 injurious accidents occurred between mile marker 32 and mile marker 35 (the area from Lake Park to just past Boyer Lake). Four accidents occurred between Oxcart Trail and mile marker 52 (which sits just before the right-hand turn for Eagle Lake Road), a span just east of Detroit Lakes.
The other four accidents do not randomly sit along the rest of the highway either. Rather, two were located near mile marker 31, and the other two occurred near mile marker 38, all relatively near the notorious Boyer Lake stretch.
Boyer Lake stretch incidents
Of the six accidents that occurred outside of Lake Park, two were single-car rollovers, two were accidents where a single vehicle ran off the road, and the other two were broadsides:
May 7, 2016, a Buick LeSabre, driven by Cody J. Casey, 26, of Lake Park, was heading south on Becker County Road 5, when it struck a Ford Escape. The Ford Escape had been travelling east on Highway 10 and, when it was struck, the vehicle spun and struck a GMC, which was being driven by Curtis T. Aarsvold, 59, of Lake Park.
Bethany R. Zieske, 39, of Hunter, North Dakota, was the driver of the Ford Escape, carrying two other passengers.
The only person to sustain injuries in the crash was Casey.
October 29, 2016, a Chevy Silverado, driven by Daniel C. Larson, 61, of Lake Park collided with a Ford Windstar, driven by Arlen E. Nelson, 47, of Lake Park.
Nelson sustained non-life threatening injuries.
On August 15 at 1:32 p.m., a Ford F-150 driven by Steven A. Balstad, 64, of Fargo, was travelling west on Highway 10, near milepost 34, when the driver suffered a fatal medical attack, causing the vehicle to go off the road, where it struck a pole and vaulted over an approach.
Passenger Sandra F. Balstad, 63, of Fargo, was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Two accidents occurred along the Boyer Lake stretch on December 3 last year:
At 6:54 p.m. a Pontiac, driven by Alyssa R. Graphenteen, 20, of Perham, "left the roadway due to weather and went into the ditch," causing Graphenteen to sustain non-life threatening injuries, according to the Minnesota State Patrol report.
At 8:02 p.m. a Chevy pickup, driven by Chad M. Christianson, 27, of Moorhead, "left the roadway due to weather and rolled into the ditch," according to the report. Christianson was uninjured, but the infant passenger sustained non-life threatening injuries.
On December 23, 2016, at 8:31 a.m., Michael R. Toussaint, 76, of Detroit Lakes was driving a Ford Ranger westbound on Highway 10, near mile marker 34, which sits right next to the Sunny Side entrance, when Toussaint lost control of the car. The vehicle crossed over the left lane, entered the median, and rolled onto its side. Toussaint did not sustain any apparent injuries. Passenger Allison M. Maneval, 53, of Vergas, was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Oxcart Trail stretch incidents
On September 2, 2016, a Chevy Caprice, driven by Mavis E. Gunderson, 78, of Detroit Lakes, pulled out in front of a semi truck, driven by Frankie L. Curtis, 39, of Princeton, Minnesota, when the two vehicle collided.
Gunderson sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The roads were reportedly dry at the time of the crash.
On October 30, 2016, a Pontiac Grand Am, driven by Miranda N. Stickney, 23, of Frazee, sideswiped a GMC Yukon, while merging onto the westbound lane.
Stickney sustained non-life threatening injuries; and the accident occurred on dry blacktop.
On December 23, 2016, a Jeep Liberty, driven by Louise E. Grove, 67, of Crookston, drifted to the left of the highway and hit the shoulder. Grove then overcorrected, causing the Jeep to cross the lanes of traffic, enter the right ditch, and roll onto its side.
Both Grove and her passenger, Gerald A. Duphorn, 72, of Crookston, sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The accident occurred on dry, four-lane pavement.
On December 27, 2016, at 5:27 p.m., a Chevy Equinox, driven by Kaylyn M. Wehmas, 23, of Vergas, was travelling west on Highway 10.
"The vehicle was traveling too fast for the icy road conditions, when the driver lost control of the vehicle and rolled off (the) road," according to the Minnesota State Patrol's report.
While weather was a contributing factor in many of the "danger zone" accidents, a look at the reported vehicle crashes and instances of vehicles going in the ditch on the highway between Lake Park and Frazee over a two-week spans during the last winter storm did not show any pattern in accident location.
Three of the 14 conclusive (and reported) vehicles that went in the ditch during the two weeks did fall within the Oxcart Trail and mile marker 52 stretch. And one more fell within the mile marker 32 and mile marker 25 stretch.
There was an uptick of reported vehicles in the ditch along Highway 10, between the Airport Road turn and Izzos, just west of Detroit Lakes.
(It is important to note, however, that not all vehicles that go in the ditch are reported to the Minnesota State Patrol).
Not just the weather, though, Jerimiah Moerke, public affairs spokesman for MnDot, says there are a number of factors to a road, which can increase the likelihood of a crash: changes in terrain, curves in the road, entering traffic, or a scenic overlook.
What to do?
The Minnesota Department of Transportation does not necessarily watch specific locations along highways to see if accidents are more likely to occur there.
They have looked into crashes occurring near Rothsay, but the study was requested.
So, as far as what can be done in these locations, there isn't much.
"(We may) promote snow fences to catch snow," said Jerimiah Moerke, public affairs spokesman for MnDoT, adding that there are some locations where it's not feasible to use snow fences, like the Boyer Lake stretch of highway, because on one side of the road there is the railroad tracks and on the other side lies the lake.
As far as snow plows go, "they can't just concentrate on the bad area because they have to clear a route," said Moerke. Although, he added that sometimes if a snow plow driver knows an area is bad, they will return to it after clearing their route and add another layer of salt and sand.
"They do adjust the application (of salt and sand) depending on the situation," said Moerke. Although, he said that can also create it's own problems.
Sometimes the application can blow off the road if it's windy or, worse, catch the snow blowing across and become compacted, causing ice to form.
Moerke said caution signs aren't really viable either.
"There really aren't signs," he said, adding that, if there were, people may become complacent to them anyway, since, "nine days out of 10, you don't have to watch for ice."
As far as redesigning the road altogether, that's not really practical either, particularly in the Boyer Lake area, since there is the lake on one side and railroad tracks on the other.
As for what to do, Moerke says drivers just need to be more cautious.
"Slow down, drive for conditions, and in the winter, turn off the cruise control," said Moerke. "This time of year, we're out doing everything we can to improve the conditions."