A multiple vehicle collision (colloquially known as a multi-car collision, multi-vehicle collision, pile-up, chain-reaction crash, or simply a multi) is a road traffic accident involving many vehicles. Generally occurring on high-capacity and high-speed routes such as freeways, they are one of the deadliest forms of traffic accidents. The most disastrous pile-ups have involved more than a hundred vehicles.
Pile-ups generally occur in low-visibility conditions as drivers on freeways are sometimes caught out by driving too close to the vehicle in front and not adjusting to the road conditions.
Another possibility is a third vehicle is simply too close to the initial collision to avoid hitting one or both of the vehicles. Due to the high traffic speeds on the road, if one car develops a problem and suddenly halts, those behind it cannot stop in time and may hit it. Considering that these roads often have high traffic volumes, more cars are forced into braking and skidding, darting into other lanes and in front of oncoming traffic and so more vehicles become involved, creating a chain reaction effect.
Determining the cause of such accidents is difficult for investigators and it is often impossible to tell if negligence caused the crash. In spite of their frequency, little formal research has been done in the United States regarding their cause or causes.
Multiple-vehicle collisions are particularly deadly as the mass of crumpled vehicles makes escape for survivors difficult. Even if survivors are able to exit their vehicles, other cars may strike them. Individual vehicles in a multiple-vehicle collision are often hit multiple times at high speed, increasing the risk of injury to passengers who may have survived the first impact with the benefit of now-discharged protective airbags. Collisions after the initial collision may occur from the side of the vehicle, where the passenger compartment is more vulnerable.
A fire in one part of the accident can quickly spread via spilled gasoline and cover the entire crash area. Multiple-vehicle collisions can also overwhelm local firefighting, ambulance, and police services making speedy rescues more difficult. If the accident takes place in a remote area, getting medical help to the scene can be a daunting task.
The destruction and intense heat of fires can also damage roadways, particularly by melting and burning the asphalt or spalling concrete surfaces. The structural steel of bridges and overpasses can also be weakened by the heat. A fiery pileup inside a tunnel is the most serious, as there is little means to escape the poisonous fumes, and the confined heat may damage structural supports.
The large scale of these accidents can close important highway routes for several days, or even longer if highway support structures are damaged.
|31 October 1965||0||28||100+||A fog bank settles over the Santa Ana Freeway and causes a chain reaction accident involving more than 100 cars and both directions of travel. The crash causes 28 injuries. Two more separate chain accidents involving an additional 50 cars (also attributed to fog) occur on the Harbor Freeway the same day.|
|29 November 1971||7||42||70||On the M1 just north of the A505 junction near Luton, United Kingdom, due to fog. Fog warning lights, switched on on the advice of motorway patrols, were not active at the time of the pileup. 26 miles of the M1 motorway were closed for several hours in both directions.|
|12 March 1990||3||30||52||Interstate 43 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States, on the Tower Drive Bridge over the Fox River, due to very heavy fog; fiery crash involved 52 vehicles; 3 deaths and more than 30 injuries. A fog warning system was immediately installed, and bridge lighting was installed in the mid 2000s, after more fog related issues.|
|11 December 1990||12||42||99||Interstate 75 in Calhoun, Tennessee, United States, between Chattanooga and Knoxville near the Hiwassee River, due to very heavy fog; fiery crash involved 99 vehicles; 12 deaths and 42 injuries. A fog warning system has since been installed, and the highway patrol enforces speed limits aggressively.|
|13 March 1991||10||51||51||M4 in Hungerford, Berkshire, United Kingdom, between Membury and Hungerford due to very heavy fog; fiery crash involved 51 vehicles; 10 deaths. A van driver either fell asleep or swerved to miss a pigeon, in the outside lane. Huge pile-up ensued.|
|October 1991||1||64||150||A15 Motorway near Ochten, Netherlands, due to fog, 150 vehicles, 1 death, 64 injuries.|
|29 November 1991||17||114||104||Interstate 5 in Coalinga, California, due to a dust storm, 104 vehicles, 17 deaths, 114 injuries.|
|April 1992||2||dozens||60||Interstate 64 in Virginia near Afton Mountain, due to fog, 60 vehicles, 2 deaths, dozens injured.|
|2 December 1994||67||127||Interstate 35 in San Antonio, Texas, United States, 127 car pile-up caused by blinding glare and rain-slicked roads, 67 injuries.|
|20 March 1995||1||90||200||Interstate 10 in Mobile, Alabama, United States, due to fog, 200 vehicles, 1 death, 90 injuries.|
|27 February 1996||10||80||200||E17 motorway near Nazareth, Belgium, due to fog.|
|10 March 1997||3||60||160||M42 motorway in the United Kingdom, due to fog – 160 vehicles involved, 3 deaths, 60 injuries.|
|31 December 1998||1||39||114||114 cars crashed during whiteout conditions and  a snow-slicked section of N/B Interstate-75 in central Michigan, just north of Grayling, killing one and injuring 39.|
|3 September 1999||8||33||87||Highway 401 in Essex County, Ontario, Canada, just east of Windsor. Very dense fog and tailgating causes an 87-vehicle pile-up, killing 8, and injuring 33 more.|
|22 November 1999||2||29||83||Interstate 70 in Golden, Colorado, United States, when a car spun out in the westbound lanes in heavy snow and fog, then was hit by other vehicles as it attempted to resume westbound travel.|
|February 2001||131||Interstate 95 in Stafford County, Virginia, United States, 131 vehicles plus two others nearby totaling 80 more, due to a snowstorm whiteout.|
|March 2002||125||Interstate 75 in Catoosa County, Georgia, United States, due to one-time sudden fog, about 125 vehicles|
|11 October 2002||10||36||50||Interstate 43 in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, United States, just north of the Ozaukee-Sheboygan county line. Involved 50 vehicles due to dense fog. Considered the worst multiple-vehicle collision in Wisconsin history.|
|3 November 2002||0||41||216||Interstate 710 in Los Angeles County, California, United States, around 200 vehicles, due to dense fog.|
|7 February 2003||1||47||80||Interstate 94 in Berrien County, Michigan, United States, 80 vehicles (initially reported as 75), due to lake-effect snow.|
|23 May 2003||2||64||90||Interstate 68 in Garrett County, Maryland, United States, approximately 90 vehicles involved in accident near the I-68 cut on Big Savage Mountain. Heavy fog was blamed for the accident.|
|6 January 2004||6||17||50||Interstate 80 in Centre County, Pennsylvania, United States, around 50 vehicles, due to poor visibility during a white out snow squall, leaving 6 dead and 17 injured.|
|12 January 2005||2||35||200||Interstate 96 in Ingham County, Michigan, United States, around 200 vehicles, due to dense fog leaving 2 dead and 35 injured.|
|5 November 2007||2||dozens||108||Highway 99 south of Fresno, California, United States, due to the tule fog that occurs frequently in fall and winter; involved 108 vehicles, killed at least 2 and injured dozens of others.|
|6 January 2008||2||100||Two people are killed as 100 cars pile up on Interstate 90 near Madison, Wisconsin.|
|9 January 2008||4||38||70||Four people were killed and as many as 38 injured in a major pileup on Interstate 4 in north central Florida involving 70 vehicles, as fog mixed with smoke from a controlled fire that reached out-of-control proportions combined to make it almost impossible for motorists to see.|
|20 January 2008||100||More than 100 vehicles crashed into each other on Highway 400 near Toronto due to bad weather conditions.|
|11 March 2008||3||277||60||Around 6.39 am UAE time a series of vehicle crashes occurred, involving cars, SUVs, buses and trucks, because of heavy fog on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway near Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, leading to the worst ever crash and multi-vehicle pileup in the country’s history. According to Dubai-based Gulf News and Reuters, the incident killed 3 people and injured 277, involving 60 vehicles from which 25 caught fire according to Abu Dhabi Police.|
|20 March 2008||0||33||231||231 vehicles crashed at highway D1 in Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic. About 30 people were injured, 3 of them seriously. Nobody was killed.|
|25 March 2008||1||6||60||A near 60 vehicle pile-up in heavy snow on Austria's main east-west highway causes one death with six injuries.|
|11 January 2009||50+||"More than 50 cars..." in Derry, New Hampshire|
|19 July 2009||Dozens||259||Dozens of people injured, 10 critically, when 259 vehicles were involved in a pile-up due to heavy rain on the German Autobahn A2 near Braunschweig in Lower Saxony.|
|13 December 2009||52||56||56 cars involved in a pile-up on Route 110 in Shelton, Connecticut due to freezing rain and black ice resulting in 46 injuries and six hospitalizations, but no deaths or life-threatening injuries.|
|23 December 2009||36||43||M27 motorway 20 vehicles involved in a pile up westbound at Rownhams services and another 23 eastbound between J7 for Hedge End and Botley and J8 for Bursledon and Netley due to severe black ice, freezing fog and deep snow. 36 people injured.|
|10 February 2010||7||50||Near Williamsburg, Virginia, whiteout conditions during the morning around 9:00 am EST 10 February led to a fifty-car pileup on a stretch of westbound I-64. The accident took hours to clear, and seven people suffered minor injuries requiring hospitalization.|
|14 February 2010||13||140||In the Kansas City area, several pileups involving 140 vehicles, including two Greyhound buses were caused by whiteout conditions. The largest pileup, involving 40 vehicles along I-70 and K-7 near the city of Bonner Springs, Kansas. No fatalities or critical injuries were reported. The accident closed I-70 for several hours so emergency workers and crews could clean up the area. The same day, also in the Kansas City metro area, a separate pileup caused by whiteout conditions, involving at least 20 vehicles closed parts of I-35 near 87th Street. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported there as well. The accident sent 13 people to area hospitals.|
|16 November 2010||2||16||75||Interstate 77 in Carroll County, Virginia-Virginia State Police determined that a total of 75 vehicles were involved in crashes in both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-77 between the 4 and 7 mile markers in the area of Fancy Gap, Virginia. Heavy fog resulting in zero visibility was determined to be the cause of the accidents.|
|8 April 2011||8||131||80+||An 80-car pileup occurs during a sandstorm on Autobahn 19 near Rostock, Germany (both directions). 8 death and 131 injured people.|
|15 September 2011||1||49||300||Rodovia dos Imigrantes at São Paulo, Brazil. around 300 vehicles involved in an accident due to heavy fog. Several injuries and one person dead.|
|1 December 2011||1||16–18||176||Tennessee State Route 386 (Vietnam Veterans Boulevard) and Saundersville Road near Hendersonville in Sumner County, Tennessee, United States, north of Nashville, due to "heavy, heavy fog"; three separate chain-reaction crashes involving 176 vehicles; 1 death and 16–18 injuries. A fog advisory was not in effect for the area at the time of the crashes.|
|3 December 2011||1||14||134||Istanbul Trans European Motorway 134 cars involved with 1 dead, 14 injured, due to heavy fog and slippery road.|
|5 December 2011||0||10||14||In the Chugoku expressway in Shimonoseki, Japan. It is believed that this pileup is one of the most expensive pileups, having 8 Ferraris, 3 Mercedes-Benz, a Lamborghini, and 2 Toyota Prius being involved in the crash. The slippery road is blamed as the cause of the pileup, and injured 10 people.|
|29 December 2011||2||59||40||I-10 in New Orleans, Louisiana; About 40 vehicles involved with at least 50 injuries (22 serious), due to heavy fog and smoke from a nearby ongoing marsh fire in New Orleans East.|
|3 February 2012||0||40+||100+||European route E75 Helsinki, Finland more than 100 cars involved with more than 40 injured (1 critically), due to heavy snow and slippery road.|
|5 October 2012||0||52||47||Interstate I-75 Southbound Sarasota/Manatee County line, Florida. On University Blvd. overpass 47 vehicles in 12 separate crashes, due to white-out rain.|
|22 November 2012||2||100||100+||Interstate I-10 – Both directions – Jefferson County line, Texas. 150-vehicle pileup on foggy Texas highway leaves 2 dead, 100 hurt.|
|15 January 2013||1||46||80||European route E4 Klippan. On Tranarp bridge. One person died and more than 40 were injured on the E4 motorway near Helsingborg, southwestern Sweden, after up to 80 vehicles crashed into one another due to dense fog and slippery road conditions.|
|21 January 2013||1||27||103||Interstate 275 – Cincinnati, Ohio. Flash snowburst caused a large pileup with many injuries. A 12-year-old girl was killed.|
|21 January 2013||0||9||52||Interstate 75 – Middletown, Ohio. Flash snowburst caused a large pileup. Same storm as Cincinnati 103-vehicle accident that killed a 12-year-old girl.|
|25 January 2013||0||5||80||Highway 401 east of Oshawa – Ontario, Canada.|
|31 January 2013||3||20+||35+||Interstate 75 - Detroit, Michigan. Flash snowburst caused a pile-up along an urbanized section of Interstate 75 in Detroit, killing a 46-year-old Allen Park man, and two children from nearby Windsor, Ontario.|
|31 March 2013||3||25||95||Interstate 77 in Carroll County, Virginia approximately 95 vehicles were involved in an accident on the southbound lane of I-77 near the base of Fancy Gap Mountain near Fancy Gap, Virginia. Virginia State Police say that excessive fog could be to blame for the accident. Three people were killed.|
|5 September 2013||0||60||130+||60 people were injured as more than 130 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes in thick fog on the A249 Sheppey crossing in Kent, UK.|
|3 December 2013||2||67||132||One person was killed and 67 injured as 132 vehicles were involved in a triple chain collision in thick fog on the A19 in Zonnebeke, Belgium. A second person died four days later.|
|23 January 2014||3||20+||~46||Interstate 94 in LaPorte County, Indiana, United States, more than 40 vehicles, due to lake-effect snow.|
|14 February 2014||0||30||100||Up to 105 vehicles were involved in multiple accidents on the eastbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Willow Grove and Bensalem. One accident involved about 75 vehicles while another incident further east involved about 30 vehicles. There were a total of 30 injuries. The accidents were a result of icy conditions from a winter storm.|
|27 February 2014||0||96||Ontario Highway 400 south of Barrie, 96 vehicles were involved in collisions at about 9am during a snow squall, reducing visibility to "a few feet". The incident resulted in the closure of Highway 400 between Highway 89 and Mapleview Drive. Both lanes on that stretch of highway were closed for most of the day until early evening.|
|1 March 2014||1||30||104||Interstate 25 in Denver, Colorado, United States, 104 vehicles, due to heavy snow.|
|12 March 2014||3||"numerous"||90||Ninety vehicles between two crashes on the Ohio Turnpike (Interstate 80/90) in Sandusky County, Ohio, United States, due to heavy snow.|
|14 October 2014||4||54||47||A 47 vehicle pileup occurs during morning traffic N12 Freeway near Alberton, South Africa (heading east). 4 people confirmed dead and 9 people critically injured.|
|9 January 2015||1||23||193||Nearly 200 vehicles, including 76 semi trucks, were involved in a pileup on Interstate 94 near Galesburg, Michigan, amidst a heavy snowstorm that brought nearly a foot of snow to the area. One of the trucks was carrying a load of fireworks, which caught fire and exploded, injuring two firefighters. The only fatality was a 57-year-old truck driver from Quebec, Canada.|
|18 January 2015||1||30||60||60-car pileup on Interstate 76 in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania due to icy roads. 1 man was killed when he got out of his car after the accident and was hit by another car. 30 more people were injured.|
|26 January 2015||2||18||100+||Motorway pile-up involving more than 100 vehicles on the M40 in Lewknor, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom]]. 2 men died and 18 people were injured, including several seriously injured.|
|11 February 2015||2||65||106||106-car pileup on Yeongjong Bridge in Incheon, South Korea. 2 men died and more than 65 people were injured. The event was caught on tape from a vehicle's dashcam.|
|25 February 2015||0||17||75||75-car pileup on Interstate 95 in Penobscot County, Maine, United States. This was noted as possibly Maine's largest single traffic accident.|
|30 January 2016||4||30||70+||55-car pileup on A1 motorway near the Senožeče, Slovenia. 5 men died and more than 30 people were injured.|
|22 February 2016||0||5||60||60 cars in pileup on E39 near Bergen, Norway. Unforeseen extremely slippery roads in the morning rush hours took motorists by surprise.|
|13 March 2016||0||20||130||At least 130 cars piled up on Interstate 85/Interstate 40 in Alamance County, North Carolina, United States. The crash is thought to be a result of slippery roads caused by thunderstorms in the area at the time.|
|22 November 2016||17||37||56||The crash happened on Monday morning on an icy road in North China's province of Shanxi.|
Multiple vehicle collisions can occur in the restricted courses used in motorsports as well, most commonly after a green flag (on road courses) being waved following a warm-up lap during the start of the race. Reporters and fans apply subjective guidelines as to what threshold needs to be crossed before a simple on-track incident can be described as such. NASCAR fans, for example, talk about the "Big One", where many cars can be or are involved in a wreck while running close together.
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There is little research on why these crashes occur. Neither the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor auto club AAA has researched the phenomena.
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