Another Day, Another Fatal Accident on I-83

If you live or work in South Central Pennsylvania (or Maryland), you know there’s no escaping I-83. It runs for about 85 miles, right up to the State Capital in Harrisburg. You also know that accidents along I-83 are sadly common.

On October 17th, the stretch of I-83 near exit 47 shut down for seven hours because of multiple vehicle crashes. ABC 27 News reported:

According to a PennDOT spokesperson, there was a disabled vehicle in the left lane at mile marker 46.5 that was hit by the tractor-trailer and several other vehicles shortly before 7 a.m.

The spokesperson said that that crash caused boxes of cooking oil to fall out of the tractor-trailer and leak oil onto the roadway. An unknown number of vehicles then crashed into the back of the truck.

Because of the backlog, there was a tractor-trailer stuck in the left lane a couple miles ahead. Another driver hit the back of that truck, and we were heartbroken to learn that he died because of that crash.

(There was one additional crash involving two other vehicles, but thankfully no injuries were reported.)

Three separate accidents happened on the 17th. All of this comes on the heels of the fatal accident in York on October 12th, where a truck going the wrong way crashed into a driver; the driver died at the scene.

Why is I-83 such a dangerous road?

There are a lot of reasons why I-83 poses so many dangers. The length of the road is one of them, simply because there’s more opportunity for accidents on longer stretches of roadway.

Another reason is that the population in this part of Pennsylvania is too much for the roadway to bear – which is why there’s a widening project in the first place. (Whether or not this will improve traffic is a matter of some debate.)

We also believe the design of the road plays a part. Much of I-83 looks just like this:

There’s a lot of wide open highway, which is designed for higher speeds. But I-83 is not an “easy” road. There are multiple exits and entrances, and multiple turns and bends. By the time you reach its terminus in Harrisburg, I-83 resembles the PA Turnpike more than anything else:

One problem, of course, is that any time you have a roadway like this – a roadway designed for traveling at speed, where both trucks and cars are common – you increase the chances of a collision between them.

Another issue is one specific to this stretch of I-83, in that there is nowhere to go. When you look at the first picture, you can see guardrails on the right-hand side, which are designed to stop cars from traveling into the embankment or trees. But if needed, a driver could pull a disabled vehicle out of the shoulder and into the grass, leaving plenty of room for cars to travel.

That is not an option for drivers who have accidents on the northern-most part of I-83. They can pull into a left or right shoulder, but they cannot exit the roadway. Disabled vehicles in the left lane may pose additional risks, too, as drivers tend to slow down when they see a vehicle on the side of the road. Slowing down in the left lane (even with the best of intentions) not only impedes traffic, but it can make other drivers behave more aggressively. Add in some distracted drivers, and you have a recipe for disaster.

As we said: I-83 is not an easy road to travel.

How can drivers stay safe on highways like I-83?

Staying safe on a highway like I-83 can be a challenge because you cannot control other drivers’ behavior. We can say you have a better chance at surviving a vehicle collision if you are wearing your seatbelt, but the belt itself cannot prevent a crash. The most common-sense advice would be to stick to the right lane when not passing, keep to the posted speed limit, and keep your eyes on the road.

What should I do if I am in a car or truck accident on a PA highway?

If you are in an accident and can pull over to a shoulder, you should do so. Then, turn on your four-way lights and call 9-1-1; this ensures that law enforcement will come to the scene of the crash, and that an ambulance will come to pick up any injured parties (yourself included). Seeking medical attention is important even if you think you are fine; some injuries can take a while to present themselves in full.

If you can, we recommend taking pictures of the accident, too. Take photos or video of the roadway, the signs, the other vehicles involved, and the damage to your car. We recommend both close-up and wide-angled shots, to capture the scene in its entirety. You should also take photos of any injuries you sustain.

Finally, you should make two more calls, once you are safe: one to your insurance company to report the accident, and one to us. Injury claims are far different from property damage claims, and the sooner you get a Harrisburg car accident attorney on your side, the better off you will be. We handle all communications between the insurance companies, too, and we can help you prepare for any official statements you will be required to give.

What should I do if I witness an accident on I-83 or another highway?

If you witness an accident, you should call 9-1-1 and alert local emergency services to the incident. Try to be as specific as possible in terms of where exactly the crash occurred.

If emergency services are already on the scene, then you are required under PA law to either move over, or to slow down in order to “pass the emergency response area at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit and reasonable for safely passing.”

The Harrisburg truck accident attorneys at KBG Injury Law have been helping injury victims for more than 30 years. If you suffered an injury in a crash on I-83 or any roadway, we are here to help. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We maintain offices in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, and Gettysburg.