May 17th Chaser Accident near Lubbock

Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
I witnessed two chasers smash into each other on May 17th west of Wolfforth. Before you make judgements, please watch my video I put together today.


I have kept these chasers anonymous. They are welcome to post here and reveal themselves if they want. The names are not important. What's important is that everyone know what to do in an uncontrolled intersection.
 
Oct 31, 2013
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Eastern TX Panhandle
Very eye opening video Ben. Glad neither party was seriously hurt, and it definitely could happen to any of us. What comes to mind for me in this situation...

Of course I'm armchair quarterbacking here, but if I was either party, I would zoom my Garmin GPS in to account for all cross roads like this. As I see myself on GPS approaching these intersections, I would approach very cautiously. I think this really is the only way to safely approach intersections that are especially hidden like this one was. I don't really know any other way to deal with this kind of issue.

Another issue is GPS not showing some of these roads in order to take precautions in advance.

This accident is just another reason to always pay attention and slow down. NOTE: In saying this, I'm not saying either party did anything wrong.
 

Jeff House

Supporter
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
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Thank you Ben. Interesting both cars had chase partners. I used to worry about solo distracted drivers. Most of the publicized accidents this year are pairs. Just goes to say (myself included) don't judge.

Pretty sure every state treats those intersections as yield. Even 4-way stop if another car is sighted. Drivers Ed is right, anticipate and drive defensively.

Anyway I hope the pax with injuries recovers soon and well. Props to these chasers, all four, no Twitter drama resulted.
 

Jeff Duda

EF6+, PhD
Staff member
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Oct 7, 2008
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Broomfield, CO
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It is probably only a matter of the white car being a few inches further forward and we are looking at (a) fatalit(y)(ies).

Cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the road when chasing.

I say judge away - a police officer clearly thought there was enough there to issue citations. What is that, if not a judgment?

Just like the South Park voting campaign in the 2004 election - watch the road or die. It's only a matter of time before we have another chaser fatality from this exact same cause.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
It is probably only a matter of the white car being a few inches further forward and we are looking at (a) fatalit(y)(ies).
Yeah, you are not wrong. I was extremely worried on what I would find when I made it to that white car. From my perspective in real time, I thought there was a passenger side impact. I knew there was a female passenger in that car too, since we had passed each other a couple times, stopping to get a look at the storm and continuing on. What's scary is that I feel the white car was being pretty cautious. We both really were, but it's still easy to look at the storm or even at a map and miss something.

I heard from the driver of the white car on my YT comments saying that everyone will be OK, so that is good.

Cannot agree with this more and want to stress it again:

Cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the road when chasing.
 
Mar 28, 2009
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Hagerstown MD
Just my 2 cents
-- At any intersection
-- in the absence of traffic control (signs, lights, traffic cops, etc)
-- the vehicle coming from your left has the right of way.

This is why ALL roundabouts go counterclockwise
(in the northern hemisphere, yuk, yuk)
and you yield to traffic already in the circle.

rdale is right -- no need for signs -- y'all just need to know the rules,
and pay attention to traffic.
 

Randy Jennings

Supporter
May 18, 2013
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Just my 2 cents
-- At any intersection
-- in the absence of traffic control (signs, lights, traffic cops, etc)
-- the vehicle coming from your left has the right of way.
You are incorrect in Texas and every other state i know of. The driver on the right has the right of way. See Texas Transportation Code 545.151 section d:


In this case, both drivers are at fault because both vehicles failed to stop as required by Texas law. The white car also failed to yield the right of way to the vehicle on their right, so in theory they could have gotten 2 tickets intead of 1.
 
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Sep 5, 2019
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Newtown, PA
Ben mentions in his video that the cross street is "literally invisible." What?? An invisible, unmarked cross street?? How is anyone not familiar with the area supposed to stop/yield in time if the cross street can't be seen until it's too late?? It seems to me that the one-time cost of installing stop or yield signs on at least one of those streets (or maybe a sign warning that there's a hidden intersection ahead) would be far less than the ongoing cost of cleaning up accidents, property damage, and the inevitable injuries (and potential loss of life) at that intersection.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
Yeah, it was definitely hard to see. I was 2 miles north of whatever the main east/west paved road was south of that storm, and I had looked at possible east options prior. I almost went down the east/west dirt road one mile prior to the road with the accident, however, even looking at my GPS maps and looking for the road, I drove past it. I was expecting power lines or something to delineate it, and there was nothing. At least at that intersection, it was wide open.

I had decided after I missed that road that I'd just bail to the paved road south of me since it was only 2 more miles and I could make up the difference in time on pavement.

The erosion mitigation a mile south hid that road, and vehicle. For the whole minute prior on my dashcam, I never see any sort of indication there is a road or car coming at us from the right, other than the tree line. We're also much worse at judging distance than we think - How many times have people claimed to be 20 yards away from a tornado and there's 3-4 power poles between them and the tornado in the shot, or there's a field and a tree line obscuring the bottom? I think the only thing harder than judging distance is judging wind speed.

Jeff Lieberman - I think your question of "How is anyone unfamiliar with the area supposed to see or know?" is potentially the most dangerous part of storm chasing - Navigating and driving on roads unfamiliar to you. It's one of the biggest detriments to this hobby.
 

JL Gacke

Supporter
Dec 9, 2015
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Nebraska
I've been driving roads like these for over 50 years and chasing them many of those years and always expect to see a vehicle appear seemingly out of nowhere, even out in the tulies.
This is a good reminder that we can all double-check our SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.
As for who has ROW?
I never make an assumption that I have it or the other vehicle has it.
Just slow down and check, especially at a partially blinded intersection.
The 1-2 seconds are not going to impact my chase, and even if it does slow me down, at least we all go home alive.
As Jeff mentions, “just a few more inches.”
No kidding, this could have been tragic and as Ben mentions, it's just a totally sick feeling that I've had as well, running over to a bad accident or to a tornado destroyed house.
I hope newer chasers that perhaps don't have years under their belts maneuvering these kinds of intersections and roads are taking this incident to heart. Please...
 
Oct 25, 2004
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Tucson, Arizona
I witnessed two chasers smash into each other on May 17th west of Wolfforth. Before you make judgements, please watch my video I put together today.


I have kept these chasers anonymous. They are welcome to post here and reveal themselves if they want. The names are not important. What's important is that everyone know what to do in an uncontrolled intersection.
I'm a Nebr. native and spent summers on my kin's farms around northeast Nebr. There are plenty of those open-4-way intersections on the remote dirt roads, and during summers we'd just BLAZE thru them like nobody's business. Oh my God, I think about how I was taught by my cousin when coming up to a 4-way at night....."just turn off your lights for a few seconds to see if any other cars are approaching the 4-way"...and that's just what everybody did. There were several wickedly fatal accidents due to that type of mentality. Honestly, in the video the guy in front of you Ben should have slowed waayyyy down and waited to see if there was any traffic on the other side of that young shelterbelt. It's so easy in such sparsely populated areas to think you're the only guy out there driving those back roads. It allows quick distractions to become ridiculously lengthy (like digging thru a box of CD's looking for the one you just GOTTA hear right now!) and often ends in sorrow.
 
Jan 7, 2006
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USA
www.skyinmotion.com
Thanks for sharing, Ben. This is a great teaching moment and reminder for virtually all of us. I just wanted to add that I feel bad for the chasers involved, and am not tempted to pass harsh judgment. Some of the dialog above I feel illustrates a divide in urban-vs.-rural upbringings, more than anything. Those of us who rarely drove in very remote areas before we started chasing are simply conditioned instinctively to handle these situations in the wrong way. After tens or hundreds of thousands of miles in urban/suburban environments (or even rural ones outside the Plains and Midwest, where vast, desolate grids aren't a thing), it becomes second nature to stop or slow only for specific signage. We all need to override our conditioning if we want to take back roads in areas like W TX, no doubt. But, goodness; it sure would be nice if they could just put up some damn signage, especially at the minority of intersections like this one with poor visibility.
 
May 25, 2014
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I get that TX has a lot of land mass, and a lot of rural roads, but no joke, I've been driving in extremely rural areas of PA, OH, MD, VA, NC for many many years now, and have never seen this practice of uncontrolled intersections, ever. Every little dirt or gravel farm road has a stop sign at intersections. All of them. It just seems like an excuse not to spend any money. I guess they just expect motorists to pull themselves up by their bootstraps? If someone wants a stop sign there hard enough, they'll do it themselves? The free market prevails? I don't know.

Just doesn't seem like it'd be too tall an order. That road really did seem invisible until you're inside the intersection.
 
May 19, 2020
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Eastern KS
I get that TX has a lot of land mass, and a lot of rural roads, but no joke, I've been driving in extremely rural areas of PA, OH, MD, VA, NC for many many years now, and have never seen this practice of uncontrolled intersections, ever. Every little dirt or gravel farm road has a stop sign at intersections. All of them. It just seems like an excuse not to spend any money. I guess they just expect motorists to pull themselves up by their bootstraps? If someone wants a stop sign there hard enough, they'll do it themselves? The free market prevails? I don't know.

Just doesn't seem like it'd be too tall an order. That road really did seem invisible until you're inside the intersection.
Alot of those roads may not see two vehicles a day 99% of the days. Tons of intersections like that here in KS as well.
 

James K

EF4
Mar 26, 2019
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Colorado
That's a pretty scary vid to watch.

I've seen unsigned intersections on dirt roads in the mountains of CO.
Putting stop signs on every little intersection would be very costly, I'm sure that's a big part of the reason it hasn't been done.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
For the record, I don't think or expect the taxpayers to pay for stop signs out in the middle of nowhere. The local residents are well aware of the implications and proceed safely more or less year round. I imagine there are days those roads see no cars travel across them. The only sure way to be safe is to practice checking corners and slowing down. I know the past year has told us all otherwise, but we are still responsible for our own safety. Nobody else is out there helping you out and looking out for your safety quite like you are.
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
Thanks for sharing Ben as this is a good teaching video for all that chase. I stop at all intersections that are like this where your view is blocked or someone is coming. With that said I also continue driving but slow down if I can see for miles that it is clear. Thanks again for sharing
 

Mark Egan

EF0
Jul 13, 2017
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Frisco
There are way too many intersections like this to put up stop (or warning) signs at all of them. (especially considering the limited traffic) But since this one had the special case of low visibility because of the row of trees, I wonder if this particular intersection should have had some sort of sign. Has anyone suggested this to the proper authorities?

The other factor here is that if you slow down as you approach an intersection the driver behind you may not be expecting that, so watch that rearview mirror.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Alot of those roads may not see two vehicles a day 99% of the days. Tons of intersections like that here in KS as well.
Probably true but still not a reason not to put up signage - I agree with @B. Dean Berry in that regard. If the argument for not putting up signage is that “those roads may not see two vehicles a day 99% of the days,” then how is that different from saying a driver might as well blow through the intersection because they have a 99% chance of getting through unscathed??

If money was spent to build the road, why not include some signage with it???