Local News

Minor Accidents Lead to Major Tie-Ups Along I-40

Posted November 22, 1999

— If you drove Interstate 40 Monday, there was a very good chance you were stuck in accident gridlock. Three accidents happened along a one-mile stretch of the interstate in Durham County, jamming traffic for several miles.

  • 9:17 a.m. Troopers say a driver fell asleep at the wheel, hit another car and slammed into the woods on I-40 West near the Durham Freeway. 2:00 p.m. An accident near Highway 55 caused another huge backup, just like the one hours before. 5:51 p.m. A third collision occurred at almost the same spot as the first accident. The only difference, drivers were in accident gridlock with their headlights on.All three accidents happened along the same section of I-40. TheN.C. Highway Patrolsays for every minute the road is blocked, the road backs up one mile.

    Take an area where I-40 funnels to two lanes, and splits off to the Durham Freeway, and the backup can seem worse.

    I-40 from the Durham Freeway to Highway 55 has one of the highest accident rates in the Triangle.

    Most are minor accidents that become major traffic jams.

    "But it only takes one of those minor ones, and then that car knocks the first car into two or three more cars, and you have a four-car wreck. Then we have the people who want to turn their head and look and that just creates a bigger delay," says Sgt. Charles Lee of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

    Troopers say if travelers leave earlier and search out alternate routes, it could ease the pain of accidents and the backups they create.

    With jams like this happening before Thanksgiving, many say the next several days may be no holiday on the road.

    The Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are usually the two most dangerous driving days of the year.

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