Congestion, other factors contributing to chain-reaction crashes

In states that have congested, multi-lane freeways like the New Jersey Turnpike, chain reaction crashes are inevitable. This is especially true during the winter months when road and weather conditions are less than ideal. Traffic congestion is often just one factor that can lead to serious multi-vehicle collisions.

Managing congestion on the Turnpike, in fact, has been the goal of the Turnpike Authority over the past few years. According to, the recent road expansion over 35 miles of the Turnpike is hoped to alleviate the worst of the bumper-to-bumper traffic commonly seen in the area, especially during rush hours. This section of the road was expanded to 12 lanes to accommodate a steady increase in jobs and population, prompting concerns that northbound traffic on the Turnpike would increase by 68 percent, and by 92 percent for southward-driving traffic.

With almost constant highway congestion, it is easy to see how one incident can lead to a chain reaction accident. A recent crash in Delaware highlighted this risk. NBC Philadelphia reported that a mattress flew out of a pickup truck, causing another vehicle to swerve and side-swipe another car, and the other car to run off the road. One person was injured in the crash.

Errant mattresses are by no means the only potential cause of a chain reaction crash. Other factors have included the following:

  • Heavy fog or rain obscuring vision
  • Ice, snow or slush making roads slippery
  • Drivers being preoccupied by cellphones or other distractions
  • Speeding or reckless driving
  • Intoxication or fatigue

When the roads are crowded and vehicles are driving fast and close to each other, it can be difficult to avoid getting caught up in a nearby collision. It may be necessary to speak with an attorney after a chain-reaction crash.

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