Most Dangerous Sections of I-75
Interstate 75 (I-75) runs north-south for nearly the entire length of the country. The north end of the highway sits near the Canadian border at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. The highway runs through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. Its southern terminus sits near Hialeah, Florida.
Along its 1,786-mile path, the highway passes through some of the nation’s largest cities, including Detroit, Cincinnati, Lexington, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Atlanta, and Tampa. I-75 connects these large cities. It also ties together the metropolitan areas surrounding these cities.
As a result, I-75 is often one of the busiest roads in every state through which it passes. Here is an overview of some of the most dangerous sections of I-75 as it crosses the country.
For most of its length, I-75 is a six-lane divided interstate highway with three travel lanes in each direction. One notable exception happens in Alligator Alley between Naples and Weston in Florida, where I-75 narrows to two lanes in each direction.
Across Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, speed limits vary between 65 and 70 miles per hour. In Florida, drivers can travel 70 miles per hour for the entire length of I-75, including Alligator Alley.
The most dangerous section of I-75 in Florida is also the most dangerous section of I-75 in America. In Hillsborough County, I-75 is the ninth-most dangerous road in the country, with 60 deaths between 2015 and 2019.
According to Signal Four Analytics, crashes on I-75 tend to cluster in three areas:
The offramps for SR-60 and Selmon Expressway and the interchange between I-75 and US-301 are some of the busiest exits from I-75 near Tampa. SR-60 and Selmon Expressway run into Downtown Tampa and Port Tampa Bay, and these exits can get busy.
At Big Bend Road, I-75 has a large interchange. Another hot spot for car accidents happens on I-75 at the Big Bend Road exit and surrounding the exit in both directions.
Surprisingly, the interchange between I-75 and I-4 does not see as many accidents as the other two clusters. But the I-4 interchange and the SR-574 interchange to the south form the smallest cluster of accidents on I-75.
As it passes through Georgia, I-75 connects the Florida border, Macon, and Atlanta. The highway then runs north to the state’s border with Tennessee.
The section of I-75 through Tampa saw the highest rate of deaths per mile between 2015 and 2019. But if you only look at the total number of deaths, Atlanta has the most dangerous section of I-75. Atlanta saw 111 deaths over just three years, from 2015 to 2017.
Atlanta’s average of 37 deaths per year on I-75 eclipses Tampa’s 12 deaths per year. In 2021, the trucking industry website FleetOwner ranked I-75 as the 16th most dangerous interstate in the country, with 0.521 deaths per mile per year.
Accidents in Atlanta cluster around the I-20 interchange in downtown Atlanta, the exits near Georgia Tech, and the area near Atlantic Station and the onramp from SR-13.
Tennessee has some of the most difficult terrains along I-75. The stretch near Jellico has I-75’s steepest grade both up and down Jellico Mountain. As the road climbs, motorists experience a sudden drop in temperature that can lead to surprise rainstorms and even black ice on the road.
Worse yet, fog can develop between Chattanooga and Knoxville as the cold, humid air in Tennessee’s river valleys gets trapped by mountain air warmed by the sun. Fog in Tennessee caused I-75’s deadliest crash and one of the deadliest crashes in U.S. history.
In 1990, dense fog caused a truck driver on I-75 to slow down. A second driver rear-ended the first driver and started a chain-reaction crash that involved 99 vehicles. Twelve people died in the crash, and 42 others suffered various injuries.
In Kentucky, I-75 has more accidents than any other interstate. And crashes on I-75 also cause more injuries than crashes on any other interstate. But crashes on I-75 tend to cause fewer deaths than accidents on I-64 and I-65. As a result, surveys usually rate I-75 as Kentucky’s third-deadliest highway.
The most dangerous section of I-75 in Kentucky falls near Lexington. This section of I-75 accounts for about five fatal accidents every year. These accidents tend to cluster around the two interchanges between I-75 and I-64. Crashes on I-75 also happen near the exit for US-25.
In Ohio, I-75 has two hot spots for traffic accidents. As it passes through the area just north of Cincinnati in Hamilton County, I-75 is Ohio’s second-deadliest five-mile stretch of road. From 2017 to 2019, that short piece of highway saw ten fatalities.
A second stretch of I-75 in Toledo also sees a lot of traffic accidents. One study found that Cincinnati was the city with the third-most fatal accidents on I-75 and Toledo had the fourth-most fatal accidents.
Michigan’s upper peninsula has cold, snowy weather, and these weather conditions cause traffic accidents. Even though the upper peninsula has a low population density, truckers dread this section of I-75 during bad weather.
In Michigan, I-75 has about 5.3 fatalities per 100 miles when conditions are snowy or rainy. Over 90 people die every year on I-75 in snow or rain. This makes I-75 through Michigan the third-most dangerous interstate for truck drivers.
In the lower peninsula, traffic congestion also plays a role in car accidents on I-75. Oakland County and Wayne County, which contain the Detroit metropolitan area, account for 55.7% of the crashes on I-75 in Michigan.
Most motorists cannot avoid the dangerous sections of I-75. One of the benefits of I-75 is that it links some of America’s largest cities.
But you can improve your odds of avoiding an accident by slowing down, avoiding distractions, and exercising caution in bad weather. You can also improve your odds of surviving an accident by wearing a seat belt.