ODOT: Tulsa IDL Lights Near Fatal Accident Shut Off For Safety, Not Budget Cuts

Monday, June 28th 2010, 7:36 am
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK --  Tulsa police said a lack of lighting is to blame for a wreck that killed a man on a dark stretch of the inner dispersal loop Sunday night.

Budget cuts in Tulsa have resulted in many highway lights not being turned on.  But in this case, despite what many may think, that cost savings controversy wasn't a factor in this deadly accident.

At the Oklahoma Driving School, instructor Danny Limes says often the newspaper is their best driving textbook and what's seen on the news can be a powerful teaching tool.

"The visual acuity you usually have during daytime hours, you don't have at night," Limes said.

Tulsa Police say Brandon McKinney, 25, and a woman were pushing a car that had run out of gas along Highway 75 when another vehicle hit and killed McKinney from behind.

"With the poor lighting that we have here on this highway because the lights aren't on, she did not see them pushing the car until the last minute." said Sergeant Dedlorn Sanders, Tulsa Police Department.

Street lights in that area, just north of the 244 interchange, were turned off and the blinkers on McKinney's car weren't being used.

"If you don't have nothing bright on, where somebody can see you, it is very dangerous trying to push your car on a dark highway," Sergeant Sanders said.

Limes agreed and said darkness can increase the potential for an accident.

"There are some stretches that are very, very dangerous," he said. "So you have to recognize those, and once again you have to make some adjustments."

The City of Tulsa has turned off lights along many highways to save money. But in this case, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shut off electricity for safety reasons, to replace lights on the IDL project.

Limes said no matter the reason, drivers with car trouble should be extra cautious on dark highways.

"They need to pull their vehicle off the roadway if they can, if not, they absolutely should have their hazards on," Limes said.

Limes said passengers should get away from a disabled vehicle.

"If a vehicle hits them at 40 or 50 miles per hour, what do you think that's going to do to them in the vehicle," he said.

It's hoped these young drivers will remember the lesson, the next time they're on a dark highway, where poor visibility can turn deadly in an instant.

The investigation is still ongoing, but because of the dark conditions, police don't think the driver of the van that hit McKinney was at fault.

The investigation is still ongoing, but officers say they have no plans to issue the driver who hit him any citations. 

ODOT released a statement to the News On 6 Monday evening  regarding the accident.

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost a loved one last night. Safety is our first priority, and we are greatly saddened by this tragic accident. Although ODOT generally provides funding for construction of highway lighting, local governments, such as the City of Tulsa, have control of operation of the system and its maintenance. Although crews have been working in the area to reconstruct major sections of the IDL, lights generally would have been turned off only in areas where traffic was prohibited because of construction work and for very limited periods of time. However, in light of this tragic situation we are working with the City of Tulsa to review exactly what happened in this specific incident. The department urges drivers to exercise caution when driving in areas without lighting and to remember to use all tools available to facilitate driver safety.