Every day, you go to work. Each morning, you head out on the Capital Beltway, making your way into Washington, D.C. You've been in an accident on this highway before, and you aren't alone. As one of many people who get up and head to work on the Capital Beltway each day, you're among thousands who have been in collisions.
Why is the Capital Beltway so treacherous for drivers?
It comes down to congestion. Around 80 percent of traffic coming from Interstate 66 East must enter the Beltway, which can cause backups for miles. The Inner Loop of the Beltway becomes congested, allowing traffic on I-66 to back up as far as Vienna. There is no way to bypass the exit and still get onto the Inner Loop in the current configuration, and even those trying to exit onto the Outer Loop get caught in the backup. This causes delays regularly.
The high-capacity lanes (HOT lanes) don't have an exit for US-50, and Green Arrow lanes are shared between the Inner and Outer Loops. Almost daily, it's the I-66 area that sees the most congestion.
What makes these areas so dangerous?
Interestingly, this is a relatively straight area of the highway. The highway is flat, too, which encourages drivers to speed since they can see far ahead and behind themselves. With the addition of heavy traffic congestion, people tend to lose their patience and make mistakes. The most dangerous points are where lanes merge or where exit or entrance ramps are present. Drivers there must rapidly pull into or out of traffic, which creates a danger of not seeing oncoming traffic or being unable to slow and stop in time for congested exits.
How is the danger of the Capital Beltway being addressed?
More policing helps reduce the number of speeding drivers, so having more officers on the highway, especially during busy times, helps prevent collisions. Transurban runs high-occupancy toll lanes in Northern Virginia's section of the Beltway.
Now and in the future, the Capital Beltway does still pose a threat to drivers. Congestion and speeding are primary factors in collisions. For those who are hurt, there are ways to file claims against the driver responsible for your injuries. With a long history of concerns along this roadway, drivers should be more cautious of others.
In 2017, there will be I-66 HOT lanes added, which have a toll. This addition could help reduce the risk of multi-vehicle accidents and collisions. In the meantime, slowing down and taking your time can help reduce your risk of being involved in a collision. If you're hit by another driver, stay at the scene to wait for assistance. You may be able to seek compensation for the damage to your vehicle and any lost wages or medical expenses you have.