The 20 Largest Traffic Accidents in Recent US History
Although most traffic collisions are minor, with smaller amounts of damages and less serious injuries, every once in a while there is an accident that gets national attention because of the severity. These accidents can involve hundreds of vehicles, and cause multiple injuries and in some cases death.
From a legal perspective, these cases can be a nightmare because of the amount of people/vehicles involved, the amount of physical and property damage, and the confusion surrounding liability for the accident.
Whether the cause of the accident was a dense fog, heavy snowfall or even a dust storm, these are the 20 Largest Traffic Accidents in Recent United States History.
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20. March 31, 2013 – Carroll County, Virginia
Vehicles Involved: 95
On March 31, 2013, approximately 95 vehicles were involved in a chain of accidents on Interstate 77 that was caused by a dense fog with visibility only extending about 100 feet.
Unfortunately, many drivers on the road that day ignored the overhead warnings about limited visibility and continued to drive at speeds of 60-70mph which did not leave them enough space to stop once the first collision occurred. This accident led to multiple fires breaking out between Tractor-Trailer vehicles and cars, although fires were not the cause of any of the three deaths.
19. December 11, 1990 – Calhoun, Tennessee
Vehicles Involved: 99
On December 11, 1990 Interstate 75 experienced one of the worst traffic incidents in the history of Tennessee, resulting in 12 deaths and involving approximately 99 vehicles.
The cause of this accident was also due to a dense fog that set in quickly, only taking a few hours. The incident led to a large section of I-75 both north and southbound being closed down. and clean up at the scene took multiple days. The accident also led to this section of I-75 needing to be completely rebuilt.
18. February 14, 2014 – Willow Grove, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Turnpike
Vehicles Involved: 100
The Traffic Pile-up that occurred on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Willow Grove, Pennsylvania stretched a distance of over 5 miles and was caused do to icy road conditions.
Just before the first accident occurred that started it all, a speed restriction that was put into place due to the poor driving conditions was lifted, obviously inappropriately. The initial pile-up on February 14 included five tractor-trailers and 10 cars, and took place just after 8:25am. The eastbound side of the Turnpike where the accident occurred was not reopened until 4:00pm that afternoon.
17. November 22, 2012 – Jefferson County Line, Texas Interstate 10
Vehicles Involved: 100+
During the busiest time to travel in the United States, this accident in Jefferson County, Texas was likely caused by a thick fog that was present in the area at the time of the first collision, which occurred at approximately 8:45 am.
Accidents spread out across both the east and westbound lanes and resulted in the deaths of two people who were in the same vehicle that was struck by an 18 wheeler. Due to the severity of this accident, the eastbound lanes were closed for about 4 hours, while the westbound lanes were not reopened until 5:00 pm.
16. January 6, 2008 – Madison, Wisconsin
Vehicles Involved: 100
This accident that stretched along Interstate 90 in Wisconsin was also caused by drivers failing to adjust their speeds to account for a thick amount of fog in the area.
The pile-ups were caused by two separate accidents, which blocked traffic on both sides of the expressway for hours and left thousands stranded. More accidents then happened as drivers began to slow down due to the conditions and were rear-ended by drivers who failed to do so.
15. January 21, 2013 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Vehicles Involved: 103
On January 21, 2013, just after 11:35am, unsafe driving conditions due to severe winter weather caused over 100 vehicles to wreck on Interstate 275 in Cincinnati.
Altogether, over 60 cars and 16 Tractor-Trailers collided with one another, resulting in the death of a twelve-year-old girl. It is believed that the young girl was killed when she exited her vehicle after her initial crash and was struck by oncoming traffic.
14. March 1, 2014 – Denver, Colorado
Vehicles Involved: 104
This accident that involved 104 vehicles and left one woman dead was also the result of drivers driving to fast for the wintery conditions on the roads. The accident, which took place just before 11:00am, resulted in hundreds being stranded and having to pile onto buses in order to escape the cold.
This incident also led to traffic being backed up over a mile, and bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout the area as highway traffic had to be diverted. It was not until 3:48pm that afternoon, five hours after the accident, that the Interstate was reopened to traffic.
13. November 29, 1991 – Coalinga, California
Vehicles Involved: 104
What do you get when you combine a giant dust storm with heavy Thanksgiving traffic? The answer is one of the worst traffic incidents in California history. The accident on Interstate 5 in 1991 was caused by the poor visibility that was caused by a large dust storm.
Because of a recent drought, the top layer of soil in the mostly farming community of Coalinga was easily whipped into the air by the 40 mph winds that were raging that day. The result of this accident was thousands of people being stuck in their vehicles with nowhere to go for most of the day until the traffic was finally cleared.
12. November 3, 2007 – Fresno, California
Vehicles Involved: 108
Around 7:45am on November 3, 2007 a dense fog set in over Highway 99 in Fresno, California, causing this deadly pile-up that left a 5 year old boy and 26 year old man dead.
The accident involved at least nine Tractor-trailer trucks, and sent more than 36 people to the hospital from the scene with injuries. Although one man involved in the accident was cited for drunk driving at the scene, he was not believed to have been responsible for the cause of the accident.
11. December 31, 1998 – Grayling, Michigan
Vehicles Involved: 114
The Traffic Pile-up that occurred on December 31, 1998 near Grayling, Michigan was the result of a Flash Snow Flurry that many of the drivers involved in the accident referred to as a”White Wall” that simply came out of nowhere.
The initial accident that began the deadly series of events was a minor, two-car collision that was called in to the police. However, by the time the responding officers had arrived at the scene, a thick snow flurry had set in and over thirty vehicles were now involved with the number rising by the second. In total, the accident required assistance from over 12 different police, fire and rescue departments, and left over 200 out-of-town motorists stranded.
10. March 14, 2002 – Catoosa County, Georgia
Vehicles Involved: 125
When a fog sets in on a major highway that leaves drivers with less than a car-length of visibility, an accident is bound to occur. Unfortunately, in this case, that accident involved over 125 vehicles and led to over 39 injuries and resulted in the deaths of four people. The cause of this deadly pile up is believed to have been an initial accident between two-tractor trailers that were both heading Northbound.
As one Tractor-Trailer hit the wall of fog, they collided with the back of another Big-Rig, which sent that truck barreling across the median and into the Southbound lanes of traffic. This Georgia car accident, which took place at approximately 7:45am, caused both sides of the highway to be involved in the pile-up and thus closed down so that emergency crews could tend to the victims.
9. December 2, 1994 – San Antonio, Texas
Vehicles Involved: 127
Interstate 35, which runs all the way from the Mexican-American border in Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota, has been home to thousands of accidents. However, the accident that occurred on December 2, 1994 in San Antonio is one that will never be forgotten. Thankfully, this major pile-up that involved 127 vehicles did not result in any casualties. However, the rain-slicked roads and massive glares that caused this huge collision led to 67 injuries among those involved.
8. March 13, 2016 – Alamance County, North Carolina Interstate 85 & 40
Vehicles Involved: 130
This 130 vehicle pile-up that occurred where Interstate 85 and Interstate 40 combine in Alamance County, North Carolina was caused by a combination of blinding sun and heavy rain in the area.
The section of interstate, which stretches over 6 miles in length, was shut down throughout the evening hours of March 13, 2016 as crews worked to clear the wreckage and attend to the injured. Thankfully, most of the carnage caused by the chain of accidents was only to vehicles, as there were no deaths reported and only 20 injuries.
7. February 22, 2001 – Stafford County, Virginia
Vehicles Involved: 131
Just before 11:00am on February 22, 2001, slick asphalt and thick snow showers caused over 100 vehicles to slam into each other at high speeds.
The series of accidents involved in the pile-up led to an accident scene that stretched over 3 miles and left dozens of drivers stranded. As the cars continued to pile up, many drivers fled their vehicles for shelter near by in an attempt to avoid being injured by flying wreckage caused by the continuing collisions. Due to the severity of the incident, the southbound lanes on I-95 were closed until 9:00pm, causing traffic to back-up over twelve miles.
6. February 14, 2010 – Kansas City, Kansas
Vehicles Involved: 140
A large Snowstorm that hit the Kansas City area on February 14, 2010 caused multiple traffic pile-ups throughout the city but none compared to the one that occurred on Interstate 70, just before 1:00 pm.
Although the accident on Interstate 70 did not cause any deaths, there were multiple injuries reported, and it took emergency response crews over six hours to clear enough road so that traffic could resume.
5. December 1, 2011 – Sumner County, Tennessee State Route 386
Vehicles Involved: 176
This massive pile-up, which was the largest multi-car wreck in the history of Tennessee, involved 176 vehicles and was caused by a combination of dense fog and black ice. Just before 8:00am on December 1st, the pile-up began when a car lost control and ran off the highway.
Involved in the accident was a school bus full of children, however, there were no injuries reported among them. The lone death caused by this accident was a male driver whose car veered under a Tractor-Trailer. In order to clear the scene, crews had to shut down the highway and 24 hours later still had yet to remove 50 of the wrecked vehicles.
4. January 9, 2015 – Galesburg, Michigan
Vehicles Involved: 193
The series of events that took place during this 193 vehicle pileup on I-94 near Galesburg, Michigan that led to 23 injuries and 1 death are hard to believe. The crash began just before 10:00am on the eastbound lanes, but quickly spread to both sides of the expressway.
After the initial pile-up, it was discovered that one of the Tractor-Trailers that had caught fire was carrying Fireworks, which then ignited causing multiple explosions. Another Semi-Truck that was involved in the accident was carrying acid, which began leaking onto the surrounding area causing a further hazard. The incidents caused by this pile-up led police to release a statement asking anyone who lived within one-mile of the scene of the accident to stay in their homes until the accident could be cleared, which took about 12 hours.
3. January 12, 2005 – Ingham County, Michigan Interstate 96
Vehicles Involved: 200
This accident in Ingham County, Michigan on Interstate 96 was the result of a thick fog that resulted in less than a quarter mile of visibility for drivers. The initial accident that started the carnage involved an SUV and about ten other vehicles including a Semi-Truck.
From there, cars began piling up on both sides of the Interstate, with approximately 114 vehicles involved on the eastbound side, and 86 on the westbound side. Among the dead was a 14-year-old boy who was riding in the SUV that was involved in the initial crash, and a man who rear-ended a Tractor-Trailer later on during the accident. Although the eastbound lanes were reopened late Wednesday, the westbound lanes remained closed through Thursday.
2. March 20, 1995 – Mobile, Alabama
Vehicles Involved: 200
One of the worst multiple-vehicle accidents to occur in the History of the United States took place on March 20, 1995 on Interstate 10 near Mobile, Alabama.
In total, 200 vehicles were involved in the accident, with 90 people suffering injuries and one succumbing to those injuries. What made this accident even worse was the fact that the Interstate runs along a bridge over Mobile Bay. The cause of this deadly accident was a thick fog that rose up from the Bay below, giving drivers extremely limited visibility.
1. November 3, 2002 – Los Angeles, California Interstate 710
Vehicles Involved: 216
The largest multi-car wreck in the United States occurred on November 3, 2002 approximately 25 miles south of Los Angeles, California on Interstate 10, and involved 216 vehicles, and caused 41 injuries.
Thankfully, even though this was a massive accident, no deaths were reported. Shortly before 7:00am, a Semi-truck that was traveling on the Interstate crashed into the center concrete divider which began the long chain of incidents on both sides of the interstate. It is believed that the main cause for all of the wrecks was a thick fog that loomed over the area that morning which caused very poor visibility.
Due to the accident, authorities closed a two-mile stretch of highway until late in the afternoon so that emergency services could attend to the injured and crews could begin cleaning up the massive amount of wreckage.
As you can see, there have been some deadly multi-car accidents throughout the United States over the years. When this type of accident occurs, it can cause extensive amounts of damage to property and people. Although it is unlikely that you will ever be involved in an accident of this magnitude, it is important that everyone who travels on the road understands their legal rights and knows what they should do if they are ever involved in a car accident.
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