On March 28th three storm chasers died in an avoidable car accident. Chasers Kelley Williamson and Gene Yarnall of the Weather Channel TV show “Storm Wranglers” failed to observe a stop sign and blasted out into the direct path of Corbin Jaeger who, not seeing them coming, hit them head on. The video stream of their chase shows them going through 4 or more other stops signs without stopping during this chase, though they did slow down sufficiently these other times, just not the last fatal time. You can see the video here, it cuts off at about the moment of the crash so you don’t see or hear it but you can see the stop sign and the sign prior to the stop sign.
Though I don’t claim to be perfect blowing through a stop sign at full speed is beyond comprehension to me, especially when there is no visibility to oncoming traffic. I also thought it was sad that the news focused on the Storm Wranglers due to their “celebrity” status where as the victim here was Corbin Jaeger who did nothing wrong. Storm Chasers created a dedication to Corbin Jaeger on Spotter Network – chasers coordinated their efforts to adjust their GPS locations in order to create Corbin’s initials.
I don’t want to linger on the mistake made by the Wranglers, from chasers I know and respect they were nice guys. What I do want to do is take a moment to reflect on chasing safety. I have learnt from my experiences that I not only need to do my best to drive safely but that I need to pay attention to others out there. Chasing the El Reno, Oklahoma 2.6 mile wide tornado I could have been hit by another chaser at a four way stop. They were simply too distracted by the storm and were paying more attention to the storm and their laptop to simply take a second to put their blinker on and almost turned into me. I also had an accident in Kansas that wrote off my car. I was overtaking a car that was crawling along the road when he decided to turn left as I was over taking, no blinker was turned on. It was a 15 year old driving illegally with friends, having fun off roading in the mud, he failed to check his mirrors. The police knew the family and falsified the reports saying that the mother was there and so covering for friends.
I would like to share the safety video of friend and chaser Dr. Jason Persoff, aka The Storm Doctor. I have encounter Jason a number of times out chasing. He does a great annual presentation at Chase Con and this year was no exception! He adds in great humor so even non-chasers would enjoy this, but there are some very serious points all backed up with facts, figures and videos, some of which are graphic so you have been warned!
Some of the main points from my point of view to keep in mind for chasers:
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Not just storms but other people and vehicles.
- Pay attention to other drivers, they may not being paying attention to their surroundings and may not know you are there. They may make unexpected moves.
- Be considerate to other drivers and chasers. It’s not all about you. Don’t block roads or underpasses. When you pull over leave as much room for others as possible.
- Let others know of any intended manoeuvres. Use your blinkers when turning. Use hazard lights when needed, don’t just drive slowly blocking other traffic.
- Do not speed through populated areas.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- Visibility is important, do not block your windshield with multiple devices. Some hail shields may even interfere with visibility.
- Keep calm (stay rested) and carry on!