In 2021, drivers in Tennessee will travel nearly seven billion vehicle miles along the state’s many roads and highways. This isn’t a surprise, given that several major interstate highways run through the state. Major highways Interstate 65, Interstate 24, and Interstate 40 account for 750 miles of roads in Tennessee. Millions of drivers use these highways every year to travel in and through the state.
Unfortunately, this much traffic means a higher chance of fatal traffic accidents. So far in 2021, the Tennessee Highway Patrol reports there have been more fatal accidents than at the same time in 2020, a year that saw the highest number of traffic-related fatalities in the state since 2010.
I-40: The Deadliest Highway in Tennessee
According to a study based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the segment of I-40 running through Tennessee is the state’s deadliest highway. The 455-mile section of Interstate 40 that runs through Tennessee had 437 crashes and 517 fatalities during the 10-year study period between 2006 and 2015. Tennessee’s crash statistics were second only to US-1 in Florida, which had roughly twice as many accidents.
Why Is I-40 so Dangerous?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the safety of a road. Among the most common are
- Weather conditions;
- Day driving versus night driving;
- Road conditions, such as snow or rain;
- Whether a road is maintained and repaired; and
- Whether drivers are distracted or impaired.
However, one of the biggest factors contributing to I-40’s dangerousness is the high volume of traffic it experiences. Interstate 40 is one of the major east-west highways in the United States. In total, it stretches about 2,560 miles, from Barstow, CA, to Wilmington, NC. In Tennessee, I-40 connects Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, the state’s three largest cities.
Drivers who live in the state or who are just passing through contribute to the tens of thousands of vehicles on the Tennessee section of I-40 every single day. Combine the high number of drivers with the windy, hilly terrain of the area, and it’s no surprise that so many accidents happen.
Driving Techniques You Can Use to Avoid Accidents
Fortunately, whether you’re driving on I-40 or another highway through Nashville, there are several things you can do to avoid getting in an accident. A big part of driving safely comes down to just a few simple techniques.
Drive the Speed Limit
Posted speed limits exist for a reason. Many crashes occur because a driver is going too fast. Traveling at higher speeds reduces our reaction time, making it harder to slow down and easier to lose control. Not only are high-speed accidents more severe, they are also more likely to occur. Driving more slowly gives you more time to take in your surroundings and react appropriately.
Maintain a Safe Distance from Other Drivers
At the common highway speed limit of 65 miles per hour, you travel nearly 20 feet in the time it takes to blink (about two-tenths of a second). That may not seem like much, until you realize that that’s only a few feet longer than the average car. Even at lower speeds, leaving plenty of space between you and other vehicles will help you get to your destination safely.
Don’t Drive Distracted
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t drink and drive. But many people are unaware that talking on a cell phone or messing with the radio can impair our driving just as much. Crashes involving distracted driving injured an estimated 400,000 people in 2018, and were responsible for the deaths of 2,841 people. Even talking on a hands-free device is enough to take our full attention away from the road.
Wear a Seat Belt
If you do get into an accident, wearing a seat belt reduces the chances you will be seriously injured or killed in an accident by 50%. According to NHTSA, about half of passenger vehicle fatalities are people who were not wearing their seat belt.
What to Do After an Accident on an Interstate
Because of where they happen, highway accidents are unique compared to car crashes that happen on other roads. Accidents on the highway often occur at much higher speeds. As a result, injuries and property damage may be much worse. Additionally, the extra traffic can make getting to safety and getting help more difficult.
Always call emergency personnel if anyone is injured in an accident on the interstate. Even in crashes that seem relatively minor, concussions can occur, and leaving them untreated can have long-term consequences. Unfortunately, concussions and other injuries are not always immediately apparent. As a result, it is in your best interest to accept medical care offered to you at the scene, even if you feel fine.
If possible, you should also try to move your vehicle to the side of the road. This will help you stay safe and prevent traffic from backing up further, allowing emergency vehicles to reach you faster.
Gather Information and Evidence About the Crash
Collecting evidence of a crash and who was at fault is crucial to any future insurance claim. Even if you aren’t planning legal action at the time, unexpected health complications or expenses caused by the accident may cause you to reconsider.
Obtaining a police report and letting officers investigate the scene can potentially help support your claim. In addition, you should gather some evidence yourself; take photos of the accident from a few different angles, and get insurance information from the other driver.
Talk to a Lawyer
After the accident, consider hiring a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can help you determine what kind of settlement is available and, in some cases, may refer you to a physician for medical treatment.
Do Not Leave the Scene Too Early
Anyone involved in a car accident in Tennessee must stop and stay at the scene. Committing a hit and run by leaving the scene too early is a misdemeanor. Under T.C.A. § 55-10-103, anyone involved in a car accident, even if there is only damage to a vehicle, must provide their personal information and render “reasonable assistance” to anyone who is injured.