It’s easy to do a little freakin’ out while crossing the Mackinac Bridge, even in a large vehicle. Every time I go across, it keeps me on my toes: will a high wind come blasting thru the straits? Will a wind come up from underneath and lift me in the air? All kinds of questions pop into your brain when you cross.

Semi trucks get a full blast of wind, and if the trailer is empty, the swaying gets pretty darn scary. The taller the vehicle, the scarier it gets, especially in windy weather.

Then there are the smaller cars…..the ones that carry the most risk of getting blown back and forth on the bridge. And that leads to the question: just how many cars have gone off the Mackinac Bridge?

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There have been various accidents on the bridge, but so far, only two vehicles have gone completely over, plunging into the water below.

The first time was on September 22, 1989, when 31-year-old Royal Oak waitress Leslie Pluhar was crossing the bridge in her Yugo. She was going way too fast for bridge travel: 60mph. The winds were up to 48mph which began blowing the car around, causing Leslie to swerve onto the median, then back in the northbound lane. Doing so, she hit the curb, jumped the guardrail, and over she went, plunging 150 feet to the water and another 100 feet to the bottom (FYI: When winds get up to 65mph, the bridge is closed to traffic).

Horror-stricken motorists didn’t know what to do, as cellphones weren’t commonplace yet. Michigan State divers eventually arrived to search for Leslie and/or her car. Eight days later she and the vehicle were pulled out of the water.

The other incident seems to have been intentional. Richard Daraban seemingly drove his Ford Bronco off the bridge in 1997. Police came to the conclusion that Daraban did it purposely – not as a stunt or to escape from someone, but to commit suicide.

So the next time you cross the bridge and you see that annoying sign that reads “45mph” in normal weather or “20mph” during cold and windy weather, it’s there for a purpose.....to hopefully save your life.

Mackinac Bridge Mishaps

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