“It saved my life.”
Andrew Williams was heading back to Jackson after picking up his 1992 Ford Econoline bus from a shop in Idaho when a Teton Pass commuter’s nightmare became a reality.
Around 5 p.m. on June 2, Williams lost control of his brakes on the pass. Williams, displaying some quick thinking, used the newly opened truck arrestor system on the pass and avoided a potentially deadly crash.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation constructed the truck arrestor system near milepost 7 on the south side of the roadway to replace the previous runaway truck ramp that forced vehicles to cross over the opposing lane of oncoming traffic to use the ramp.
Williams said he was following two dump trucks over the pass when he lost his brakes.
“They were already going pretty slow, so I was on the brakes a lot. Then, I pushed on the brake, and they just went to the floor,” Williams said.
Williams then tried to pull the emergency brake, which immediately snapped. That was when he knew he was in trouble.
“I was already shaking violently. In my head, I had a few options. I could try and drive into the mountain to stop myself, but there was no break in the oncoming traffic, and I was risking hurting someone else. Or I could ride the guardrail and use the friction to stop,” Williams said.
Williams chose to ride the guardrail until the truck arrestor came into view. Williams said he was traveling at 30 miles per hour when he chose to take it.
Of the eight catch nets, only one was used to stop the vehicle. Williams’ van sustained very little damage, mostly cosmetic to the headlight casing, and the vehicle was able to back out of the arrestor on its own. Williams was uninjured.
“I can’t believe I was ok. The system worked phenomenally,” Williams said.
Williams sat in the arrestor for some time before someone he knew stopped to check on the situation. Williams used the person’s phone to call for help.
The Teton truck arrestor system was opened in March of this year.
“This is the first time it’s been used. I was pretty impressed with the small amount of damage and the ease in which the arrestor stopped the vehicle,” said WYDOT’s Bruce Daigle.
The WYDOT crews were able to replace the catch net in a few hours, and the whole system was operational the next day.
Williams, like others, had some questions about what happens after a vehicle uses the arrestor and what costs are incurred to repair the system and put it back in working order.
The process is similar to when a driver strikes a guardrail or box beam on the interstate, or has a fender bender with a state vehicle. Claims are processed through the driver’s insurance policy and the state’s financial department. More than likely, the insurance will cover the costs of the collision.
WYDOT crews would like to remind all Teton Pass motorists who may lose control of their brakes, in any type of vehicle, that the arrestor system is an effective and safe way to stop a moving vehicle.