Is Interstate 40 one of the most dangerous highways in the country? A new study by Canadian fleet management company Geotab claims it is-- at least in Tennessee.
The study, which you can view for yourself here, compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Highway Safety Administration.
But 10News wanted to Verify if I-40 really is more dangerous – so we dug into the data.
The study lists 437 crashes and 517 fatalities on Interstate 40 in Tennessee, second only to U.S. 1 in Florida for both categories.
We took the data to Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Lt. Don Boshears. He didn’t dispute the numbers, but did have some critical qualifications. His first – traffic.
“I-40 is a very busy interstate system,” he said. “It’s one of the major systems. You put a large volume of traffic on the interstate there… chances go up that something catastrophic might happen.”
THP's central office in Nashville wasn't able to compile comparable numbers today but did send this map of fatal crashes over the last three years.
Boshears noted that the weigh station west of Knoxville is either the busiest or second-busiest in the country, depending on the day.
To be fair – the study also lists a fatal crash rate of 0.7, which a footnote claims is “adjusted for the average daily traffic counts.” There, Tennessee isn’t second, but deep in the middle of the pack.
But Boshears believes the length of I-40 and the terrain it crosses contributes to crashes. In Tennessee, the road stretches more than 450 miles.
“It’s windy, hilly and curvy,” said Boshears. “So you factor in the large volume of traffic, the terrain, and the lay of the interstate system, they all could add together to make a pretty dangerous stretch of highway.”
One question 10News had about the data – nowhere on the site does it list the time period in which it was collected. Geotab did not respond to a 10News request for comment Tuesday, and NHTSA was not able to verify the project’s numbers.
Geotab responded Wednesday, saying the data was gathered from 2006-2015.
But what is certain – Boshears said a big part of safety behind the wheel is in your hands. He said most fatal crashes are because of 4 factors: distraction, impairment, speed and seatbelt usage.
“Just drive,” said Boshears. “Leave you cellphone alone. A lot of people think, well, I’m just talking on the phone, not texting, so it’s not distracting – it still is.”
So 10News can Verify: Does I-40 in Tennessee have more the second most crashes and fatalities in the nation? That’s likely true. But another THP official in Nashville wrote he believes the data is ‘mis-characterized’ in the study, citing the length of the road and the volume of traffic on it.