Every auto accident scene is unpleasant, but arguably the most horrifying type of multi-vehicle crash is one which is caused by low visibility due to smoke or fog. Here are five of the most terrible of these kinds of pileups on record:
1. South of Gainesville, Florida
January 28, 2012
A manmade fire caused thick smoke to drift across a portion of Interstate 75. The reduced visibility resulted in at least 10 people being killed in the ensuing pileup, which involved about 10 passenger vehicles and four or five commercial vehicles. The wreckage stretched for over a mile, and one witness reported hearing approximately 15 different collisions during the chaos.
2. Polk County, Florida
January 8, 2008
The I-75 crash brought back memories of this horrific pileup on Interstate 4 about 12 miles north of Lakeland, Florida. Almost 70 cars were involved in this 10-crash catastrophe over a two-mile stretch of interstate, and four people died while 38 others were hurt. The cause was a “perfect storm” of dense fog and gray smoke from a nearby brush fire.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
December 29, 2011
The exact cause of this 40-vehicle pileup is still unclear, but it is believed to be a combination of early-morning fog and darkness. The 4am crash on inbound Interstate 10 claimed the lives of 2 people, sent over two dozen to area hospitals, and injured 37 more. A tow truck driver who arrived on the scene shortly after the crash described hearing numerous screams and cries for help all around him.
4. Near Taunton, Somerset, UK
November 4, 2011
A Friday evening pileup on Britain’s M5 roadway claimed seven lives and injured more than 50 others. A total of 34 vehicles were involved in the incident which authorities first thought was caused by smoke from a nearby fireworks show for an area soccer team. But experts now believe that visibility was more likely limited by fog combined with burning diesel fuel from the initial collisions.
5. Hampton Hill, Middlesex, UK
January 29, 1959
Fog- or smoke-related pileups aren’t just a recent phenomenon. Over a half century ago, thick fog enveloped a large portion of the British Isles and wreaked all kinds of havoc across the region. A total of 35 vehicles were involved in one roadway accident, though records do not indicate the number of casualties. The fog lasted for more than two days and brought most British transport to a standstill.
Multi-vehicle accidents where fog or smoke is present are so scary because drivers simply cannot see anything around them. To make matters worse, once your visibility is eliminated, there’s no way to determine what the safest course of action is. Do you stop and risk being hit from behind by another motorist traveling at high speed? Or do you drive on and hope you don’t smash into anything (or anyone?) Plus, these wrecks are far from instantaneous – they could last for several minutes or longer.
That’s why smoke- or fog-related pileups tend to have greater loss of life, more injuries, and higher auto insurance claims than most other major accident scenes.