Editorials

Sunday’s massive I-40 snarl shows need for safe driving, more traffic updates

Westbound traffic was heavily backed up a mile east of a median grass fire that spread to both sides of I-40 a half mile east of the N.C. 86 overpass.
Westbound traffic was heavily backed up a mile east of a median grass fire that spread to both sides of I-40 a half mile east of the N.C. 86 overpass. hlynch@newsobserver.com

That 134 drivers ended up in multiple wrecks on both sides of Interstate 40 in Alamance County on Sunday should give us all pause to reflect on our own driving.

The lessons are simple and obvious, but deserve repeating. The weather can be capricious, and a little rain, combined with fog, can change road conditions, making them hazardous, in a matter of minutes. Second, fog is deceptive. Just a little fog will impair visibility to the point of danger. Slow down, put some space between your vehicle and the one in front, and be patient.

The wrecks that began about 6 p.m. left 25 people injured. West-bound I-40 was closed until 10:30 p.m., stranding hundreds of people on the road. East-bound lanes were stopped for a while as well.

All because drivers were speeding, ignoring the weather conditions, following too closely and not paying attention.

With such a catastrophic event shutting down both sides of a major highway, idled drivers are eager for news about what happened and what to expect and about which lanes they should be attempting to get into when traffic starts flowing.

On Sunday, the @NCDOT_I40 twitter account was idle between 5:45 p.m. and 8:21 p.m. and still never acknowledged a wreck that involved more than 100 cars and shut down the highway.

The state offers the 511 automated voice response system so that drivers can find out about highway conditions. It might be more useful to explore using social media in real time to alert drivers stopped on major highways about what is happening and about how long they can expect to be patient.

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