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The most dangerous interstates for truckers: No. 1 — I-85

Counting down the top 5

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Busy roads with many types of drivers can increase the odds for accidents, especially for truckers in bad weather. Certain interstate highways are particularly dangerous based on accident rates in recent years. This is the fifth of five articles counting down the most dangerous interstates.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks were involved in 1,137 fatal accidents on interstates in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available; 451 of those accidents happened in rainy or snowy conditions, an increase of 5.3% from 2017. The FMCSA defines large trucks as those with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), maintained by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Interstate 85 is the most dangerous interstate for truckers. This was based on fatal accident statistics for all drivers that occurred in either rain or snow. The most recent numbers are from 2011 to 2015. Interstate 95 ranks second, Interstate 75 ranks third, Interstate 20 ranks fourth and Interstate 77 ranks fifth.

During those five years, I-85 — which stretches from Alabama to Virginia — had a frequency of 6.1 fatalities for every 100 miles during rain or snow. However, it had only 41 total deaths in rain or snow.

Interstate 85 corridor (Image: Wikimedia)

I-85 is a major highway in the Southeastern U.S. It runs 666 miles from Montgomery, Alabama, where it ends at Interstate 65, to its northern terminus at I-95 in Petersburg, Virginia. It’s oriented southwest-northeast, and actually covers a larger west-east span than north-south. While most interstates that end in a “5” are cross-country routes, I-85 is mainly a regional route, serving five Southeastern states. Major metropolitan areas served by I-85 include Richmond, Virginia; the Research Triangle, Piedmont Triad and Charlotte areas in North Carolina; Upstate South Carolina; the Atlanta metropolitan area; as well as the Montgomery metropolitan area.

One of the worst multivehicle pileups in U.S. history happened on I-85 on the evening of March 13, 2016. This 130-vehicle pileup happened near the intersection of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Alamance County, North Carolina. It was caused by a combination of blinding sun and heavy rain in the area. A six-mile stretch of the highway was shut down for several hours as crews cleared the wreckage and helped the injured. Thankfully, no deaths were reported; 20 people were injured.

Truckers can keep track of real-time traffic on I-85 here. The rest of the top five list will be revealed one by one each day the rest of this week.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.