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 first of five articles ranking 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 77 is the fifth-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.
During those five years, I-77 — which stretches from South Carolina to Ohio — had a frequency of 4.4 fatalities for every 100 miles during rain or snow. It also ranked fifth regarding the total number of deaths in rain or snow, with 27.
Other types of weather have also caused major issues on I-77. On a foggy March 31, 2013, one of the worst multi-vehicle pileups in U.S. history shut down part of I-77 for several hours near Fancy Gap, Virginia. As a result of that crash, electronic variable speed limit signs were installed along that stretch of the highway. Highway officials can adjust the speed limit according to driving conditions at a given time.
Interstate 77 corridor. (Image: Wikimedia)
Interstate 77 is a 613-mile long north-south highway in the eastern U.S. It crosses diverse terrain, from the mountains of West Virginia to the rolling farmlands of North Carolina and Ohio. It largely replaced the old U.S. Highway 21 between Cleveland and Columbia as an important corridor through the central Appalachians.
The southern terminus of I-77 is just outside Columbia at the junction with Interstate 26. The northern terminus is near downtown Cleveland at the junction with Interstate 90. Other major cities that I-77 connects include Charlotte, North Carolina; Charleston, West Virginia; and Akron, Ohio. The East River Mountain Tunnel, connecting Virginia and West Virginia, is one of only two instances in the United States where a mountain road tunnel crosses a state line. The other is the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, connecting Tennessee and Kentucky. I-77 is a major route for truckers hauling between the Great Lakes region and the South.
Truckers can keep track of real-time traffic on I-77 here. The rest of the top five list will be revealed one by one each day the rest of this week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.