The section of Interstate 5 (also known as I-5 or “the 5”) that spans nearly 800 miles traveling north-south through California is one of the most dangerous roads in the United States. Although the I-5 passes through major population centers like San Diego and Los Angeles, serious accidents on the 5 are not confined to the big cities.
Many accidents occur on some of the most hazardous stretches of the 5, farther to the north. The portion of I-5 that passes through southern Kern County is known colloquially as “The Grapevine” for the centuries of grape farming in the area. When the 5 enters the Central Valley near Bakersfield, it’s known as the Westside Freeway. Both of these locations are home to a number of unique hazards for drivers.
If you have been injured in a crash near Bakersfield, on The Grapevine, or another section of Interstate 5, a skilled auto accident lawyer can help. Contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine today for a free consultation.
Why is the Grapevine So Dangerous?
According to a recent report by the Los Angeles Times, 192 deaths were recorded as a result of accidents on the I-5 over a three-year period. One of the biggest issues on Interstate 5 is traffic congestion. The Grapevine and Westside Freeway see a high volume of cars, semi-trucks, and other vehicles. With more vehicles sharing the road, drivers face more chances of being injured in an I-5 accident.
However, heavy traffic is not the only issue that makes these sections dangerous and leads to more accidents on the 5. Some of the factors that increase the likelihood of accidents on the Grapevine and Westside Freeway parts of I-5 also include:
Speeding is Always Unsafe
As with many interstate highways, excess speed is a leading factor in accidents on the I-5. Whether drivers go too fast on flat stretches of road in the Central Valley or exceed the speed limit when trying to pass semis and other vehicles on the steeper portions of The Grapevine, unsafe driving speed commonly results in crashes.
Also, the faster someone is traveling before an I-5 freeway accident, the more severe the crash and resulting injuries will be. Head-on collisions and side-swipe accidents can be deadly under these circumstances.
The I-5 climbs in elevation after leaving Los Angeles County. As a result, quickly changing and inclement weather is a common concern for drivers in the area.
Depending on the time of year, areas of The Grapevine, such as Tejon Pass, may be subject to heavy rain and snowfall. The precipitation can lead to slick roads and reduced visibility, resulting in a higher potential for an I-5 crash.
In addition to snow and rain, wind is another common contributor to weather-related accidents. Those driving on The Grapevine may suffer a loss of control due to high winds, although the bigger threat is posed by the climate in the area.
Poor Visibility May Cause Accidents on the I-5
Drought conditions can cause the soil in lands typically used for farming to become dry and dusty. The wind can pick up the dust and, depending on the volume of particulate matter in the air, create near-blackout conditions for drivers. In fact, 2021 marked the 30th anniversary of a dust storm that enveloped a section of The Grapevine on I-5, resulting in a multi-car pileup that killed 17 people.
Sudden rainstorms can reduce visibility in a split second, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles, slam on their brakes, or run into other vehicles that have slowed to accommodate the weather. When drivers follow too closely, multi-car accidents on the 5 can happen in an instant.
Steep Grades Can Lead to an I-5 Accident
Driving the Tejon Pass involves navigating multiple sections where the road slopes significantly. When descending the pass, some drivers may “ride their brakes” in an effort to avoid picking up too much speed. Unfortunately, riding the brakes results in wear and tear. If the brakes on a vehicle are old or poorly maintained, it will take longer for the vehicle to come to a complete stop.
Worn and malfunctioning brakes are an especially big problem for semi-trucks. Commercial drivers should have the experience and training to recognize the necessity of gradual braking and using low gears when traveling on a grade. Unfortunately, careless or inexperienced truckers may fail to operate their rigs cautiously on steep grades.
The combination of operator error and inadequate maintenance of a big rig on I-5 may result in a serious truck accident. If you were injured in an I-5 freeway accident with a commercial vehicle, an experienced truck accident lawyer can identify all of the parties at fault for your I-5 crash (potentially including the driver, the trucking company, a parts manufacturer, etc.) and pursue compensation on your behalf.
Other issues involving tractor-trailers on Interstate 5 are overloaded and poorly balanced cargo. Of course, a trailer that is carrying too much weight or a load that is improperly distributed is a danger on any road. However, the conditions on I-5 discussed above magnify the inherent hazards posed by an overloaded 18-wheeler.
Bad weather or visibility, for example, might cause a truck driver to overcorrect in order to stay on the road. This sudden movement can cause an overloaded semi to jackknife or tip, resulting in an accident.
Were You Injured in an I-5 Accident? Contact an Experienced Accident Attorney Today to Protect Your Rights
Attorney Mickey Fine is a California native who is personally familiar with Interstate 5 and other major roads in the area. Our legal team recognizes the impact of serious injuries and fatalities caused by accidents on I-5 and other locations. We offer our extensive experience and proven track record to help every client receive fair compensation from a negligent or careless driver who causes injury.