On January 9, 2023, Eyewitness News in Houston reported a huge multivehicle accident at I-45 North northbound at SH 249 Mount Houston Road. Houston Fire Department officials said an SUV flipped and an RV, 18-wheeler, and minivan were involved in the chain crash. According to first responders, at least five people were transported to the hospital.
This accident is one of many that have occurred on Interstate 45 over the decades, making it the deadliest highway in Texas. In this blog, the team at the Villarreal & Begum, LAW GUNS go over the history of I-45, the statistics that created its dangerous reputation, and how a San Antonio car accident lawyer can help if you’re injured while traveling.
About the I-45
Interstate 45 runs from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Dallas, passing through Galveston and Houston along the way. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) maintains this 284.913-mile route.
The stretch of highway between Houston and Galveston was the first freeway to be built in Texas. Known as the Gulf Freeway, it started opening in 1948. By the 1970s, the final sections of I-45 linking Conroe to Richland and Richland to Dallas were complete.
How Deadly is I-45?
According to this study, a 285-mile stretch of I-45 recorded 260 fatalities between 2016 and 2019. This section, which runs between Dallas and Galveston, was the most dangerous, but overall, 0.913 fatalities were recorded for every mile of highway.
Other statistics noted in the study include:
- Saturday is the most dangerous day to drive on the highway
- In general, October is the month with the most fatalities
- Most fatal crashes occur between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.
- Over 60% of fatalities caused by commercial truck accidents on I-45 involve passengers in the other vehicle
Another study, which listed the deadliest roads in every country, put I-45 in the top spot for the United States. A third, released in 2022, analyzed more than 10,000 fatal traffic accidents in Texas between 2017 and 2019 to identify the deadliest roads. It made the following observations:
- Harris County had the highest number of fatal crashes. The majority of fatal accidents occurred on I-45 within the county.
- I-45 was the most dangerous road in the following counties: Montgomery, Galveston, Ellis, Walker, Freestone, Navarro, and Madison.
- The stretch of I-45 extending five miles from Exit 63 to Exit 59 in Houston came in 7th on the list with 12 fatal accidents total and 2.4 fatal accidents per mile.
What Makes I-45 So Dangerous?
Of all the accidents recorded on I-45 over the years, the most common cause was driver error or recklessness. Traffic congestion and driver complacency have resulted in 56.5 fatal accidents for every 100 miles.
I-45 is notorious for fatal crashes between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, drunk driving is a major factor: most fatal crashes taking place during this time period have been caused by drivers with blood alcohol levels greater than the legal limit.
Some drivers were found to have illicit drugs in their systems, such as cocaine, heroin, and morphine. Not all drugs are illegal though: there is also evidence that prescription medication is a factor in many accidents on I-45.
I-45 car accidents are frequently caused by distracted driving. Texas outlawed texting while driving in 2017, but this hasn’t discouraged motorists from engaging in the practice. Other types of distracted driving include using GPS and radio systems, eating, grooming, and conversing with passengers.
Another major cause of I-45 crashes is reckless driving. The definition of a reckless driver is someone who disregards the rules of the road and, in the process, endangers the lives of others. Actions include driving erratically, following too closely behind other vehicles without warning, and acts of road rage.
While it is not uncommon to see people driving at high speeds on open roads, drivers are still required to follow the posted speed limits. Motorists driving too fast for the road conditions have caused a large number of accidents on I-45. At high speeds, they can’t safely navigate curves in the road or evade the illegal maneuver of another driver.
Nonperformance errors, such as falling asleep behind the wheel or blacking out while driving, are common causes of fatal crashes. According to the NHTSA, these crashes account for about 3% of I-45 accidents. Driving while drowsy can result from illness or exhaustion, making it difficult for drivers to remain alert.
Failure to Obey Traffic Signs and Signals
A number of accidents have been reported due to drivers failing to obey traffic signals and signs. It is estimated that close to 4% of the fatal crashes on I-45 are caused by this kind of behavior.
Failure to Yield
The majority of failure-to-yield crashes occur at interstate highway intersections, especially when drivers attempt to merge with oncoming traffic. The likelihood of a collision increases when drivers fail to yield, regardless of who has the right of way. On I-45, these types of accidents account for nearly 7% of fatalities.
Veering Into Neighboring Lanes
Approximately 8.5% of fatal crashes on I-45 occur as a result of drivers failing to maintain their lanes. Driving while impaired, drowsy, or distracted can all contribute to veering. Some drivers veer into a neighboring lane due to medical issues such as a heart attack or stroke.
The term overcorrecting refers to a motorist losing control of their vehicle after reacting to an object on the road, an unforeseeable action by another driver, or any other unexpected event. Consequently, the driver causes an accident by oversteering or overcorrecting. In the last decade, overcorrecting accidents on I-45 have accounted for approximately 4% of fatal crashes.
A crash is not always easy to investigate, nor is it always possible to gather all the information to determine what caused it. The NHTSA has stated that over the last decade, more than 30% of fatal crashes on Interstate 45 had no reported cause.
What to Do if You’re in an Accident on I-45
If you’re struck by another vehicle while traveling on I-45, you have two priorities: staying safe and getting medical care right away. If you’re able to exit your vehicle and move off the road, do so. Otherwise, stay in place and wait for the police and an ambulance to come. While you’re waiting, get the other driver’s contact and insurance information and, if possible, take pictures of the accident scene, which will include vehicle damage and any road conditions that may have contributed to the crash, and get contact details from any eyewitnesses who may be able to support your personal injury claim.
If you don’t end up going to the hospital in an ambulance, see your doctor or go to the emergency room as soon as possible, since you could have hidden injuries. Once a medical examination confirms the nature and extent of your injuries, it’s time to think about filing a personal injury claim.
Injured on the Deadliest Highway in Texas? Call Us!
When you know that you’re driving on a highway with a dangerous reputation, you’re naturally inclined to take greater care. Unfortunately, not everyone is equally diligent, and I-45 continues to be the site of serious and fatal car crashes.
If you’re hurt on the deadliest highway in Texas, you deserve experienced legal representation. Although they sound friendly and concerned over the phone, insurance company representatives are not looking out for your interests, and anything you say could be used against you. Your personal injury will deal with them on your behalf, collect the necessary evidence, and file your claim before the deadline, which is generally two years in Texas.
At the Villarreal & Begum, LAW GUNS, we fight for those who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents on I-45. We are known throughout Texas for successfully representing families and survivors of car, truck, motorcycle, and other traffic accidents. Our San Antonio car accident lawyers always demand the compensation our clients need to rebuild their lives and won’t settle for less. Consultations are free and you owe us nothing unless we win, so call (512) 800-0000 or contact us online today.