Local News

Scene of I-40 triple fatal wreck worries drivers

Posted July 6, 2011
Updated July 7, 2011

Crews on the scene of a wreck on Interstate 40 west at U.S. Highway 15/501 in Durham County on June 30, 2011.

— Some drivers worry about a stretch of Interstate 40 near the Durham-Orange county line where a tractor-trailer wreck killed three people last week.

The highway narrows from three lanes to two near U.S. Highway 15/501, where a tractor-trailer driven by Ronald Eugene Graybeal, 50, of Newport, Tenn., crashed into four vehicles last Thursday.

"That's about the worst wreck I have ever seen in my life," said Jesse Roberts, who came upon the wreck after it happened.

John Hall Llanio, 38, of Kannapolis, Barbara Boda Caldwell, 64, of Mebane, and Gary Dwayne Smith, 45, of Burlington, all died. Reginald Keith Thompson, 49, of Greensboro, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Graybeal faces two felony and one misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charges, along with driving while impaired and drug offenses.

Some drivers say that there's not enough warning to react to the closure of the leftmost lane.

"Very abruptly, the traffic comes to a standstill, which you know generally causes you to slam on your brakes," Roberts said.

George George drives the route every Thursday and Friday, he said.

"I drive (I-40) westbound, and when I get anywhere near it, which means at the (N.C. Highway) 55 exit, that's where I get off because it gets really bad up here," he said.

Two signs on the left side of the road announce the lane closure. The first sign is placed 2,000 feet before the lane ends.

Last week's wreck caused the first fatalities in that stretch of I-40 in at least five years, according to a preliminary review of data from 2006 to 2010 by the state Department of Transportation.

The highway saw an annual average of 32.6 wrecks during that time period, causing an average of 11.6 injuries each year.

Scene of I-40 triple fatal wreck worries drivers Scene of I-40 triple fatal wreck worries drivers

Roberts said he also drives the route regularly. He's learned to anticipate potential danger and back-ups, but said he's never noticed the warning signs.

"It is not marked well enough. It needs to be marked where it gives you at least five or six warnings way ahead of time," he said.

DOT said they will survey the area to see if adjustments need to be made, such as adding more signs or changing the speed limit. They will also consider the number of wrecks in the area.

The DOT survey of the area will begin once the department receives the final report on last Thursday's wreck, officials said.

88 Comments

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  • sidecutter Jul 14, 4:12 p.m.

    they need to make the right lane end not the left. that way the speeders won't be inconvenienced.

  • concerncitizen Jul 7, 4:19 p.m.

    Slow down!

  • raysson Jul 7, 4:01 p.m.

    Death Valley is like Greensboro,where all the roads come together causing motorists to drive like they don't have common sense.

  • raysson Jul 7, 4:00 p.m.

    That intersection of I-40 and U.S. 15-501 is getting to be known as "Death Valley" where the lanes of I-40 switched from six lanes to four once you enter into Orange County. I don't drive on I-40 these days since its getting like a hazard where drivers act like fools on the road.

  • lcseds Jul 7, 3:57 p.m.

    Lot of people here talk about crazy driving. I wonder what others would think of your driving? Everyone thinks everyone else is a wreckless driver on the road. Post all the signs you want, people will still take risks and wreck. Accidents are rare, crashes are common.

  • RKBA Jul 7, 3:16 p.m.

    "What a bunch of nonsense. It happened because the driver was impaired!"

    Bingo.
    This is the best response of the whole thread.

  • whocares Jul 7, 3:10 p.m.

    That sign that says "Left Lane Closed 2,000 Feet" is for anyone else but the driver of the car or truck. I agree it wouldn't matter if the sign said 4,000 feet, people would still drive like lunitics on the road

  • Shine -On Jul 7, 2:22 p.m.

    If people on 40 would stop driving like maniacs these things would not happen.... I understand the truckdriver was under the influence of something - which is not excused. You FOUR wheelers are to blame for most of anything that happens on highway.

  • sinenomine Jul 7, 2:19 p.m.

    It doesn't matter if you give people a warning ten miles before the merge, they'll always be people who are distracted, or ignore the signs, or who are willing to risk their and others' lives to pass and get one car length ahead.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Jul 7, 12:50 p.m.

    What a bunch of nonsense. It happened because the driver was impaired! Point the finger where it belongs.

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