Mike Motz, Sidney Sun-Telegraph
Local, county and state law enforcement and first responders raced to the scene of an accident at around 3:30 on Monday afternoon. About a half mile east of marker 66 on Route I-80, two tractor trailers slid off of the road during white-out conditions. The snow and ice accumulations on the highway made for treacherous conditions, causing both of these trucks to go off the road and down an embankment on the side of the highway. According to Nebraska State Patrol on scene, the accident was set in motion when one tractor trailer was following a Nebraska Department of Transportation snow plow at about 25 mph and was hit from behind by another tractor trailer. The driver of the first truck was checked out by medical personnel on-scene and it was determined he had no injuries and was escorted to a local motel. A female passenger of the second tractor trailer had to be extracted from the cab by members of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department. She was transported to Sidney Region Medical Center for injuries sustained in the accident. She was later air-lifted to another medical facility that is unknown at the time of printing. The driver of the second truck was also taken to SRMC where he was treated for minor injuries and later released.
The area was cleared and the highway re-opened at about 4:45 p.m.
From the last published report on Traffic Crash Facts published by the State of Nebraska in 2020, traffic fatalities have been decreasing steadily since an uptick in 2010. Although the vast majority of accidents happen on dry roads since there are many more days of dry conditions than wet conditions, Snow or Ice conditions are nearly a full percentage point above Wet Conditions, despite snow and ice only occurring during a limited number of months per year.
Despite a larger number of miles traveled via Interstate Highway, these roads have by far the lowest number of accidents per mile driven than other State Highways or Local Roads and Streets. Over a five-year average from 2015 to 2020, March was the month with the lowest number of accidents, while November had the highest amount of accidents. Even with the high amount of tractor-trailer traffic on Nebraska's Interstate Highways, tractor trailers only account for 4.4% of accidents. Automobiles and light trucks account for 91.9% of accidents.
The Department of Transportation advises drivers encountering snow and icy conditions to first slow down, as rate of speed in these conditions is the most likely cause of an accident. They also advise to stay in the furthest right lane available, make sure your headlights are on, and to be very careful when passing other vehicles in snow and icy conditions.