Interstate 81 (I-81) is one of the busiest highways in Virginia. It crosses the state from north to south, which leads to thousands of vehicles traveling at least a portion of its length every day. I-81 is not only one of the most used interstates in Virginia, it is also the location of numerous devastating collisions.
Many of the worst crashes in the state, including many crashes between commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers and passenger vehicles, take place on I-81. Why does I-81 experience such a high number of devastating wrecks each year?
High traffic volumes lead to more crash risk
Wherever there is a high density of traffic, the potential for a collision rises accordingly. More vehicles in close proximity to each other while traveling at high speeds inevitably increases the likelihood of some kind of crash occurring. With 48,000 vehicles estimated to use the road each day, I-81 has such a high volume of traffic that an increased rate of collisions is almost unavoidable.
Hilly roads present many dangers
One of the reasons that I-81 is so dangerous is that it has many inclines and declines. It is a very hilly route that will require constant attention from motorists as they drive up and down the mountainous terrain. It only takes one lapse in judgment for someone to potentially lose control of their vehicle while going up or down a hill. Commercial vehicles can be particularly dangerous on inclines, as their greater weight leads to more momentum and a longer stopping distance. Additionally, abrupt motions might lead to a rollover or jackknife incident that could shut down the road entirely.
Ideally, those driving commercial vehicles like semi-trucks would slow down or take alternate routes that are a bit safer. However, they tend to use the most direct route and travel at the maximum speed possible to reach their destination as quickly as they can. The unfortunate result of such choices is a high number of theoretically preventable collisions.
Motorists in smaller vehicles don’t necessarily have to avoid I-81, but they should familiarize themselves with the risks on that particular road if they hope to maximize their safety while traveling. Identifying the most dangerous roads in Virginia and understanding what makes them so hazardous may improve the safety of motorists and their passengers overall.