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Deadly Car Accidents Precipitated By Heavy Fog in Mountain Region

Our Knoxville car accident attorneys know that the Great Smoky Mountains are a huge draw to Tennessee, not only for tourists but for year-round residents as well.

The mountains are breathtaking – but can also be deadly, in no small part due to the intense layers of fog that creep along the steep, winding roads.

It was this same kind of fog on a recent Sunday along the Virginia-North Carolina border that resulted in almost 100 vehicles being involved in crashes. In the end, three were killed and 25 more were injured.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that state police in Virginia had determined 17 different accidents occurred along Interstate-95 – all within a one-mile span near the bottom of Fancy Gap Mountain. The crashes started shortly after 1 p.m., and continued on through the afternoon, amid a backdrop of heavy fog.

Officials noted that Fancy Gap Mountain is notorious for having treacherous fog banks. One minute, visibility is normal, and the next, drivers are in a dense fog. It often settles suddenly, giving officials little time to post advance warning signs to travelers.

Since 1997, there have been six similar pileups just on that mountain, though this most recent one was the deadliest, according to reports from The Roanoke Times. Previous crashes resulted in the death of two people each.

Officials said warning signs regarding the severe fog had been posted early that morning, but most of the crashes were the result of drivers who were traveling entirely too fast for the conditions.

The wreck that kicked off a chain reaction involved eight vehicles, a number of which burst into flames. Images from the scene revealed a burned-out tractor trailer and a number of other vehicles that appeared to be crushed but blackened by fire.

Local officials dispatched school buses to pick people up and transport them to area hotels and shelters.

Although Fancy Gap is known for this kind of fog, so are many others in Tennessee.

It’s important for drivers traveling through these areas to be prepared for visibility conditions to change at a moment’s notice. Fog can make it all but impossible to see even a few feet in front of you.

Driving cautiously and defensively to begin with is a good start.

The Weather Channel recommends that if you do encounter a fog while driving, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your high beams OFF. They will only result in the light being reflected back to you, which is going to make it even harder to see. Use your low beams.
  • Slow down. Don’t base the judgment of your speed off visual cues, either – actually watch your speedometer. The reason is that fog can actually create the optical illusion of slow motion, making you think you are traveling slower than you are in reality.
  • Open your window a bit and turn the radio down or off. Ask your passengers to limit conversation. You want to try to listen for any traffic you may not be able to see.
  • To aid with visibility, use your defrosters and your wipers as necessary.
  • If you are having trouble seeing ahead of you, use the painted road markings or the right side of the road as a guide.
  • Remain patient. Don’t try to overcome other vehicles in a fog. You can’t see far enough ahead of you to judge whether such a move is safe.
  • Don’t stop on the freeway – or any road that is heavily-traveled. If you feel unsafe continuing on, pull off at the next exit. If you must pull over immediately, pull as far away as possible, turn your vehicle’s lights off and step as far away as possible from the vehicle to avoid the possibility that you’ll be hit by a passing car.


If you are involved in a Knoxville traffic accident, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657.

Additional Resources:
3 killed in 95-vehicle pileup at Virginia-NC line, March 31, 2013, Associated Press

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