Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Patrol - Speed + Ice + Fog = Major Accidents

On Thursday, December 18, 1980, the weather was cold and foggy. A light coating of ice was polished smooth during the morning commute on Interstate 15 at the Point-of-the-Mountain. Visibility was reduced to less than 50 feet. Many vehicles continued to travel at or near freeway speeds. A few motorists, late for work, accelerated their vehicles past the posted speed limit. Several other motorists had reduced their speed, but had failed to move to the right lane. Soon the inevitable occurred. A fast moving northbound vehicle overtook and collided with a slower moving vehicle. This minor accident set up a chain reaction which lasted for several minutes. Many occupants were injured. Several occupants left their vehicles and were then struck by vehicles which suddenly appeared through the fog. Soon the accident spilled over into the southbound lanes.

Troopers were notified of this accident at 7:42 a.m. Upon arrival they found the largest traffic accident in regards to total vehicles involved in the history of the state of Utah. Troopers from Utah County and Salt Lake County responded. The accident completely closed I-15 for a distance of one mile both northbound and southbound. A total of 78 vehicles were involved northbound. The southbound accident involved an additional 56 vehicles, for a total of 134 vehicles. Approximately 80 vehicles had been totaled. Several fuel tanks had been ruptured and the scene was heavy with gas vapors. Fortunately, nobody was killed during these collisions.

History repeated itself on Tuesday, December 27, 1988. Temperatures had dropped to a low of minus 8 degrees. At 8:20 a.m., commuter traffic traveling at freeway speeds entered a dense fog on Interstate 215 near the Jordan River. The end result was 67 vehicles involved in a single accident. Dozens of people were injured, although none seriously. Many motorists reported that following their initial crash, they continued to feel and hear other vehicles impacting into the rear of the accident for nearly a minute.

[Last Update - Friday, 20-Dec-2013 11:00:45 MST]