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The most dangerous interstates for truckers: No. 3 — I-75

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 third 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 75 is the third 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 20 ranks fourth, and Interstate 77 ranks fifth.

During those five years, I-75 — which stretches from Florida to Michigan — had a frequency of 5.3 fatalities for every 100 miles during rain or snow. It ranked second regarding the total number of deaths in rain or snow, with 94.

Interstate 75 corridor (Image: Wikimedia)

I-75 is a north-south highway stretching from the Great Lakes to the Southeast. As with most Interstates that end in a “5,” it’s a major cross-country route, one of the longest in the country. It passes through six states, running almost 1,800 miles from southern Florida to the northeastern point of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Originally, I-75 was planned to end in Tampa, Florida. However, beginning in the 1960s, there was huge population growth in southwestern Florida, including the Sarasota, Fort Myers, Naples and Cape Coral areas. Hence, the need increased for an additional section of I-75. The highway turns east near Naples, crosses the Everglades, and ends in Miami Lakes. The northern terminus is at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at the U.S.-Canada border.

Two of the worst multivehicle pileups in U.S. history happened on I-75. The first, on Dec. 31, 1998, near Grayling, Michigan, was the result of a flash snow flurry. Many of the drivers involved in the accident referred to it as a “White Wall” that simply came out of nowhere. In all, 114 vehicles were involved, one person died and more than 200 out-of-town motorists were stranded.

The second accident, on Dec. 11, 1990, occurred in dense fog that developed quickly and suddenly along I-75 in portions of Bradley and McMinn counties in Tennessee. The result was a wreck involving 99 vehicles, killing 12 people and injuring 42 others. A large section of I-75 in both directions was closed for hours, and cleanup took several days.

Truckers can keep track of real-time traffic on I-75 here. The rest of the top five list will be revealed one by one each day the remainder 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.