Virginia’s Interstate 81 sweeps from north to south for 325 miles, skirting the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains on its way down to the dual cities of Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee. This highway provides motorists with diverse and often challenging terrain, taking them from flatlands to rolling hills and mountain vistas.
As scenic as I-81 is, it has also proven dangerous for many travelers, as the steep grades and increasingly dense truck traffic make the narrow lanes prone to frequent truck accidents. According to a senior research scientist at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, I-81 is statistically the deadliest of Virginia’s five interstate highways.
Truck Traffic on I-81 Continues to Increase
During its heyday in the 1960s, Interstate 81 was built to accommodate a 15% ratio of commercial truck traffic. However, tractor-trailers today take up a full 40% of the highway’s traffic, and congestion from passenger cars is quickly growing, too.
The Federal Highway Administration reports that traffic volume on most segments of I-81 has tripled since 1975 due to long-term economic growth and expansion in industries along the corridor. The deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980 made it even easier for new truck companies to start up and for truckers to receive licenses, effectively quadrupling the number of commercial trucks on the road. I-81 is now one of the top 8 trucking routes in the United States.
Preventing Truck Accidents on I-81
When tractor-trailer accidents do occur on this mountainous interstate, they are infamous for their severity. The problem is widely known among state officials, causing the Virginia Department of Transportation to spend tens of millions of dollars adding truck lanes and widening bridges.
However, long-term solutions to the traffic volume problem will be expensive. Current estimates range just under $13 billion, and could take over a decade to implement. Worse still, recent budget cuts in Virginia have resulted in less overnight parking for fatigued truckers who are need to get off the road and get some sleep.
Despite how well-known I-81 is for accident frequency and severity, some truckers still do not exercise the caution necessary to keep the highway safe. Speeding, sleep deprivation, and reckless driving is responsible for a vast majority of the truck accidents that continue to occur on the highway. As we wait for I-81 to be updated and expanded, truckers need to take extra preventative measures to ensure they are not putting other drivers – and themselves – at risk on the open road.
If you or one of your loved ones has been injured in a truck accident on Interstate 81 in Virginia, please contact Kalfus & Nachman online or call us at (800) 361-0430 for a free initial consultation. We can help you secure the compensation you deserve to make a full recovery. Serving clients in Roanoke, Norfolk, and Newport News.