Deadly Collision Between an RV and a Tractor-Trailer on I-81

Deadly Collision Between an RV and a Tractor-Trailer on I-81

Five people are dead following a heartbreaking accident on I-81 in Franklin County. The deadly crash occurred on August 9, 2023, near the Chambersburg exit on Interstate 81. Four family members were traveling southbound in an RV when the front left tire of the motorhome blew out.

When a vehicle has a tire blowout, it will veer in the direction of the blowout. In the I-81 crash, the RV veered toward the median and the opposing lanes of traffic beyond. The impaired vehicle struck a cable fence in the interstate’s median. These fences are meant to act as a barrier, but the RV slipped through an emergency U-turn break in the fencing. The RV, which was also hauling a trailer, entered the northbound lane and hit a tractor-trailer head-on. The big-rig truck driver was the fifth person to die because of the accident. PennDOT spokesperson Dave Thompson called the Greene Township accident “really unfortunate, incredibly tragic.” The crash shut down I-81 for almost 10 hours.

The Franklin County crash stands out as particularly awful, but vehicular accidents are hardly uncommon in the United States. Almost 43,000 people died in the 39,508 fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2021, according to 2023 projections from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). PennDOT’s Thompson laments the number of fatalities: “We do so much education and engineering solutions to try to make our highways safer, yet people are still being killed on our highways, it’s very tragic.”

10 ways to reduce the risk of the most common causes of RV accidents

We don’t want anyone to have to suffer the way the families of the I-81 crash have suffered. It’s a solemn reminder that not all accidents are avoidable, and that collisions with semi-trucks often have deadly results. Defective tires, poor road design, inadequate safety measures – any of these things can contribute to the overall devastation of a crash.

Most RV travel takes place in the summer months. Schools are closed. The weather is favorable. And vacationers hit the nation’s highways and byways. More traffic equals more accidents and serious injuries and even death.

So today, we want to offer some tips on how to reduce your risk of catastrophic injuries while traveling by RV.

  1. Do not drive if you are groggy or tired. Drivers who are tired are less functional and alert. They are more likely to make careless mistakes that may lead to an accident. If you’re in danger of dozing off, find a safe place to pull over and rest.
  2. Do not overload your RV. Always obey the manufacturer’s weight requirements when loading up your vehicle. An overloaded RV will be harder for the driver to handle. The extra weight also puts undue stress on the vehicle’s brakes, suspension system, and tires. You should be familiar with your RV’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR), which is the combined weight of both the vehicle and any trailers you are hauling.
  3. Do not exceed the speed limit. Maintaining a safe speed is crucial to driving any vehicle, particularly larger ones. Bigger vehicles take longer to stop. Accidents are usually worse when they involve larger vehicles.Keep in mind that the proper speed may actually be lower than the posted speed limit depending on the road conditions. For example, if it is pouring rain, you should take it slower than you would on a clear day.
  4. Do not drive an RV on really windy days. Aerodynamic designs help modern vehicles move more freely with less wind drag to slow down the vehicle. RVs are basically the opposite of aerodynamic because of their tall, blocky bodies and flat sides. It is not recommended to drive an RV when winds are higher than 20 miles per hour. If you do need to drive on a windy or inclement day, use smaller roads where you can safely drive at a slower pace.
  5. Do not unevenly load your travel trailer. An uneven load can cause a travel trailer to sway precariously. Installing a trailer sway control on your vehicle can help. But you also need to take additional loading precautions. Left uncontrolled, a swaying trailer can tug on the RV from behind and may ultimately cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
  6. Drivers must meet standards of experience and training. Driving an RV is not just like driving a car. Maneuvers such as turns and stops are trickier to execute than in a passenger car. Pulling a trailer will also change the handling of the RV.**
  7. Carefully calculate turns and stops. A heavy vehicle with a big load requires a longer stopping distance. Needless to say, you should avoid tailgating another vehicle. But you may need to maintain an even greater distance from the car in front of you depending on the load you are carrying. Make sure you have the proper clearance for any turns, the radius of which will be wider than those in a standard car.
  8. Be aware of your blind spots. Due to their large size, RVs have large blind spots that can make it tough for the driver to see the entirety of what is around them. The driver is especially vulnerable when changing lanes or driving in reverse. An attentive driver should use their mirrors, signal all lane shifts and turns properly, and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
  9. Do not drive distracted. Setting your GPS, changing the channel on your playlist, making phone calls, eating a meal, and texting are all examples of distracted driving. It’s dangerous, and you should try to minimize distractions when you are behind the wheel.
  10. Do not drive under the influence. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is reckless and against the law. It’s also deadly: in 2022, there were 320 fatalities related to drunk driving in PA – and increase from the 311 in 2021. They accounted for 27% of all fatal accidents that year.

** We recently received a suggestion for clarification about how licensing works for RVs, and we wanted to share it with you.

Pennsylvania does not require a Commercial Drivers License for RV’s. However, owner/operators could be required to get a Non-Commercial Class A or B license, which is based on the registered weight of the vehicle. They do not need a DOT medical card (like drivers with a CLD would need) and the test to get said license is much less than the true CDL test.

What to do after a car accident in York, PA

If you have been injured in a car accident in York, PA, you may be eligible for damages and compensation. Pennsylvania law is not always straightforward when it comes to car crashes. An auto accident lawyer can help you evaluate who is at fault and what exactly that means for your specific case. The team at KBG Injury Law will listen to your story and help you put together the best possible legal claim.

KBG Injury Law has five offices conveniently located in York, Lancaster, Hanover, Harrisburg, and Gettysburg. We proudly serve clients in all of South Central Pennsylvania. Call or contact us to learn more about how we can support you.