Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car accidents on the freeway can cause massive pileups
  • It ‘s always important to stay focused and not let yourself get distracted when driving
  • Maintaining the minimum amount of car insurance ensures that you and the other driver will be covered in case of an accident

Car accidents happen everywhere, but when they occur on the freeway, the result can be a 10-car pileup!

Here’s a look at some of the worst car pile-ups of all time, plus a look at the main factors that cause mega-pileups. We hope you can learn a bit from these famous car accidents, to prevent yourself from getting involved in one.

Make sure that you protect yourself by being aware of your surroundings, driving defensively, and maintaining adequate car insurance in the event of a major automobile accident.

Read through our listing of the worst highway accidents ever so you become a better driver. Then, enter your zip code above and start comparing affordable car insurance quotes today!

Table of Contents

1. The Fresno Fiasco

  • Location: Highway 99 Fresno, CA, USA
  • Date: November 3, 2007
  • Weather: Fog
  • Number of Cars: 126
  • Number of Injuries: 36
  • Main Factor Involved: Visibility

This Fresno highway pileup has been called one of the largest car accidents in United States history. Firefighters who arrived on the scene to assist at the original accident scene could still hear cars crashing into one another.

A thick fog known as “Tule fog” in Central California was the main factor since it causes visibility to drop to two feet in some areas, leading motorists to continue piling into each other long after the original accident.

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2. Misfortune in Massachusetts

  • Location: Interstate 93 Near Londonberry, MA
  • Date: January 12, 2009
  • Weather: Snow
  • Number of Cars: 46
  • Number of Trucks: 13
  • Number of Injuries: 15
  • Main Factor Involved: Winter Conditions, Unplowed Pavement

It took emergency crews over four hours to clear up this mess and reopen the highway. One witness noted that while road conditions had been good, the further they traveled down the interstate the less the road was plowed in the snowy conditions, leading to the epic accident.

This occurred place during early morning drive time, which was also a factor. The morning commute is the time when people are rushing to work, despite the fact that there might be inclement weather affecting driving conditions.

3. Wreckage in Williamsburg

  • Location: Interstate 64 Williamsburg, VA
  • Date: February 10, 2010
  • Weather: Heavy Snowfall
  • Number of Vehicles: 50
  • Number of Injuries: 7
  • Main Factor Involved: Visibility, Traction, Narrow Roadway

This crash was due to the inability of drivers to see anything since there was heavy snowfall occurring at the time, known as white-out conditions. The snow obviously did not help drivers stop, either.

Another factor was that the road was blocked on each side by guardrails, causing drivers to swerve and crash awkwardly, and leading to subsequent accidents behind them.

4. The Great Czech Wreck

  • Location: Highway D1 Near Vysocina, Czech Republic
  • Date: March 8, 2008
  • Weather: Heavy Snowfall
  • Number of Vehicles: 189
  • Number of Injuries: 30
  • Main Factor Involved: Snow

Deemed the biggest traffic accident in Czech history, the took eleven hours to clear the roadway, partly because there were concrete columns that further congested the site, partly because there were almost 200 vehicles involved.

Snow was the biggest issue that caused this accident, as weather conditions made it difficult to use the brakes to come to a reasonable stop.

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5. The Autobummer

  • Location: Autobahn Lower Saxony, Germany
  • Date: July 19, 2009
  • Weather: Heavy Snowfall
  • Number of Vehicles: 239
  • Number of Injuries: 66
  • Main Factor Involved: Heavy Rain, Speeding

At the time of this pileup, heavy rain caused both traction and visibility problems for all involved. It started when a few cars lost control, then slowly built into a massive amount of vehicles. Police said that speed was also a factor since the was not a defined speed limit.

Speed certainly played a major role, since the series of accidents that caused this pile-up spanned over a two-hour period.

How You Can Avoid a Pileup

The purpose in reading about car accidents is to learn how you can prevent them from happening in the first place! Here are some tips for preventing a car accident:

  1. Check the weather conditions – Is there going to be unusual weather during your trip? If so, plan for extra traveling time and drive slowly.
  2. Take your time – Often pileups occur because people are driving faster than weather conditions permit Don’t make the mistake of taking this kind of risks.
  3. Pay attention – A lack of attention gets drivers into a lot of trouble. As tempting as it is, hold off on that phone call or text until you get to where you are going.

A combination of the above factors like adverse weather conditions, rushing, and being distracted can be extremely dangerous. The majority of pile-ups have more than one factor involved. Begin by reducing bad driving habits (like texting while driving, or speeding during inclement weather) to improve your overall safety.

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