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Why there are so many accidents on I-85 in the Upstate

Somewhere on the 106 mile stretch of I-85 in South Carolina, there is a crash every three hours. In Greenville County alone there is an accident on that same highway three times a day.

The numbers have soared in the last year with 100 more Greenville County accidents on I-85 this year than all of last year.

I-85 is the main artery connecting the Upstate to the world. It’s 106 miles of interstate highway that’s choked by traffic, riddled with potholes and littered with debris. It is both the backbone of the transportation network and a guarantee of frayed nerves.

News 7 wanted to know what is making the numbers of accidents go up and crunched the numbers to find out.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety keeps detailed records on every interstate accident. The numbers show that there were more accidents with injuries on I-85 in the state than in any of the previous 6 years.

There were as many fatal accidents through the first week of November 2015 as the previous two years combined.

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After each of those accidents the highway patrol fills out a detailed report. That means that by compiling those reports it’s possible to know what caused every one of the crashes. That includes, speed, weather, and whether the driver was distracted.

Despite the increase in crashes, the state reports show the number of times “aggressive drivers” were the cause is down 60% over the last 5 years.

Distracted drivers caused just 6 crashes in that same time period, down from 21 the year before and down 85 percent over 5 years.

Crashes caused by debris in the road are down by half.

So far in 2015 there were only two reports of accidents on I-85 caused by debris in the road and two more caused by potholes.

There was no increase in crashes on wet roads and the number of DUI crashes is about the same.

As it turned out, the reports showed no statistically significant increase in anything that would explain the rise of overall crashes.

Instead, it was the price at the pump that provided a clue.

The only way 7 News found to reliably predict the number of crashes on I-85 was to correlate the number of accidents with the price of regular unleaded gasoline.

When gas prices spiked in 2011 and 2012, the number of crashes on I-85 dropped sharply. They were the safest years on the interstate in about a decade.

When gas prices plunged at the end of 2014, interstate crashes soared.

Interactive Accident Maps

Fatal / Injury DUI Distracted Driving
Driving Too Fast Aggressive Driving Wrong Way
Weather Conditons Potholes Debris in Road
Animal In Road Tire Problems

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