A new analysis of data from the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) looked at multi-vehicle accidents and their fatalities. Craft Law Firm examined data from 2005-2021 to see just how dangerous 10+ vehicle pile-ups are, why they happen, and when.

Key Takeaways

  • California and Florida are the states with the most number of fatal pile-ups during this period (both had 12).
  • The fatal pile-up with the most vehicles occurred in Texas due to ice. It involved 130 vehicles and resulted in 6 fatalities.
  • These incidents usually happen during the day, when there is commuter traffic, and when there is low visibility due to weather. Adverse weather can affect braking time in addition to visibility.

Including California and Florida, fatal pile-ups with more than 10 vehicles have happened in 38 states. 25 of those states have had multiple. Here’s the breakdown:

States with Multiple Fatal 10+ Car Pile-Ups (2005-2021)

  • 12 – California, Florida
  • 11 – Texas
  • 10 – Pennsylvania
  • 9 – New York
  • 7 – Arizona
  • 6 – Indiana, Ohio
  • 5 – Colorado
  • 4 – Louisiana, Maryland
  • 3 – Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin
  • 2 – Oregon, Washington, Wyoming

Map: Fatal 10-Car Pile-Ups (2005-2021)

Below is a map visualizing all of the fatal pile-up crashes involving at least 10 vehicles.

map of fatal 10-car pile-ups 2005-2021

When Do These Crashes Happen?

Interestingly enough, multi-car pile-up crashes usually occur between 7:00 – 8:00 am compared to other hours. This is closely followed by the late afternoon, when one-third of these crashes take place (2:00 – 7:00 pm). Both times are when there’s heavy traffic on the roads, due to work and school commutes.

In terms of the time of year, November through February is when most fatal pile-ups occur. This makes sense due to the dangers of winter weather.

This data shows us that during heavy traffic, and especially on days with ice or low visibility, driving slower than usual and paying close attention to the road can be the difference between life and death.