Be Wary of Driving on I-81. Car & Trucking Accidents Are Prevalent & Often Fatal.

A car or trucking accident can be devastating, and Staunton and Harrisonburg’s proximity to Interstate 81 increases the risk that you’ll be in an accident. Construction on I-81 started in 1954, and the highway runs from Tennessee to New York, making it a major thoroughfare for truckers transporting goods up and down the East Coast. In fact,  41% of all trucking traffic in Virginia happens on I-81, surpassing the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas located around Interstates 95 and 66. The prevalence of tractor-trailers on I-81 means the fatal accident rate is nearly double that of other Virginia interstates. 

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I-81 Wasn’t Built For This Much Traffic.

I-81 was designed and built for traffic levels of the 1950s, including 15% for trucking traffic. With the actual rate nearly three times as high, it’s only natural that there have been problems with congestion and accidents. In the Shenandoah Valley, rolling hills and mountainous terrain makes maintaining consistent speed challenging for semi-trucks which can contribute to accident levels. There are 29 colleges along I-81 from NY to TN, with at least half of all Virginia university students and their families using I-81 regularly.

The Problems Are Real & Change Is Happening.

In 2018, the Commonwealth Transportation Board and other regulatory bodies conducted a corridor study to determine the issues and create a plan to address those problems. The General Assembly introduced two bills regarding the corridor in 2019 with two amendments proposed by Governor Ralph Northam. In 2019, the Assembly passed the bills and amendments, creating the Improve 81 Program. That program provides funds and plans to expand, widen, and extend lanes and soften sharp curves. Current projects are estimated to be completed in 2026 or later.

The Risks Are Still Present, So Be Prepared & Vigilant Driving on I-81.

While critical infrastructure is improving, it’s important to note that it’s not complete, and accidents are still happening. Harrisonburg’s and Staunton’s proximity to I-81 means you’ll find yourself on the highway whether you like it or not. Be vigilant and pay attention when driving on Interstate 81, and if you find yourself in a car or trucking accident, contact our Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice team to determine what’s in your best interest.