Friday night just before 8 pm Michael Lee Smith, 51, was driving a Dan Wheeler heavy duty wrecker northbound on Interstate 45 just north of SH 242. Jordan Burke 26, of Spring and Courtney Helms, 23, of Spring were also northbound in the left lane.
Smith’s front tire blew out causing the wrecker to veer to the left pushing Burkes 2007 Saturn against the concrete barrier and then flipping it over the barrier onto the southbound shoulder. The wrecker also pushed the concrete barrier into the southbound lanes.
Smith was trapped in the wrecker under the steering wheel for over an hour as Needham and The Woodlands Fire Department worked to free him. In addition The Woodlands Hazmat was dealing with close to one hundred gallons of diesel fuel on both the northbound and southbound lanes of the freeway.
DPS and MCSO both closed the freeway for several hours as the accident was worked.
Close to 10 pm they were able to open two lanes of traffic in each direction.
There were no serious injuries, Smith did suffer a broken leg.
After allowing the two lanes to open motorists almost ignored the emergency workers on the highway and the emergency vehicles. The state’s Move Over/Slow Down law, which traditionally has required drivers to yield to police, fire and emergency vehicles, has been expanded to provide that same protection for Texas Department of Transportation workers. Effective Sept. 1, 2013, drivers must move over or slow down when approaching TxDOT workers and vehicles that are stopped with overhead flashing blue OR amber lights.
The new addition to the Move Over law requires motorists to move out of the lane closest to the TxDOT vehicle when possible or reduce their speed to 20 miles per hour below the posted limit. If the road does not offer multiple lanes, the driver must slow down. On roadways with posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less, drivers must reduce their speed to 5 miles per hour. Violators can be fined up to $2,000.