The most dangerous interstates for truckers: No. 4 — I-20

Tractor-trailer heading down I-20 in Texas on a sunny day.

Busy roads with many types of drivers can increase the odds for accidents, especially for truckers in bad weather. Certain interstate highways are particularly dangerous based on accident rates in recent years. This is the second of five articles counting down the most dangerous interstates.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks were involved in 1,137 fatal accidents on interstates in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available; 451 of those accidents happened in rainy or snowy conditions, an increase of 5.3% from 2017. The FMCSA defines large trucks as those with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), maintained by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Interstate 20 is the fourth most dangerous interstate for truckers. This was based on fatal-accident statistics for all drivers that occurred in either rain or snow. The most recent numbers are from 2011 to 2015. Interstate 77 ranks fifth.

During those five years, I-20 — which stretches from Texas to South Carolina — had a frequency of 4.7 fatalities for every 100 miles during rain or snow. It ranked third regarding the total number of deaths in rain or snow, with 73.

Interstate 20 corridor. (Image: Wikimedia)

Interstate 20 is a major east-west route across the South, spanning more than 1,500 miles. Beginning near Kent in western Texas, at the juncture of  Interstate 10, it runs to Florence, South Carolina, where it ends at Interstate 95. I-20 runs through several states, connecting major cities such as Dallas-Fort Worth; Shreveport, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; and Columbia, South Carolina. From its terminus at I‑95, the highway continues about 2 miles east into the city of Florence as Business Spur 20.

I-20’s path in Atlanta was designed in the late 1950s, during the era of segregation, to separate the city’s white and African-American populations. The highway’s exit numbers in Georgia — formerly labeled in numerical order — were changed in 2000 to reflect how many miles each exit is from the state line or from the Georgia city where the interstate starts. This conforms to the system used in most other states.

In 2003, the North Carolina Department of Transportation proposed extending I-20 eastward from Florence to the North Carolina coast. The proposed route would run parallel to U.S. Highway 74/U.S. Highway 76 most of the way. As part of the 2005 Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA), North Carolina received $5 million for a feasibility study for the extension. However, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has opposed the project, concentrating on plans to extend Interstate 73, which would end near Myrtle Beach.

Truckers can keep track of real-time traffic on I-20 here. The remainder of the top five list will be revealed one by one each day the rest of this week.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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