Questions about I-81 safety after weekend fatal crash


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Questions remain about the safety of some sections of I-81 after a fatal crash Sunday.

Officials with the Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed two people are dead after the driver of a pickup truck travelling north went across the median and hit a car going south near mile marker 52.

MORE: THP: 2 dead in Sunday I-81 crash

The crash is the second accident in less than three weeks with two fatalities. The first occurred near mile marker 62 in Sullivan County on June 29th.

MORE: Two people killed in I-81 head-on crash in Sullivan County

Myron Hughes, public information officer for the Fall Branch Volunteer Fire Department, said Sunday’s crash may have been mitigated by guard rails or cable barriers in the median.

“Could it have changed the situation, yes. There may still have been a fatality but it may have prevented the vehicle from completely travelling into the southbound lanes,” he said.

Hughes said the last time they saw a crossover crash this severe was about three years ago but drivers frequently hydroplane into the median during heavy rain.

Despite these incidents, Tennessee Department of Transportation Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi said there are no active safety projects or planning studies underway for this stretch of I-81.

Nagi said the department considers crash history, road curvature and median width when deciding if a barrier is needed.

Nagi said the width of the median near mile market 52 is about 130 feet.

At mile marker 62, he said it’s about 105 feet.

He said a cable barrier is generally installed if a median is 60 feet across or less.

Hugues said TDOT should consider looking into additional safety measures in their I-81 services area, a section of road that sees about 30 thousand vehicles a day.

“I do think if we look at just fatalities, anything that will help mitigate that and save a life is definitely worth looking into,” he said.

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