One week after the traffic disaster on Interstate 95, which left thousands of drivers stranded in Virginia, a state lawmaker said he is drafting a bill meant to help prevent such a mess from happening again.
Under the bill from Sen. Dave Marsden, drivers of tractor-trailers would need to stay in the right-hand lane on highways when it snows heavily.
“It’s just something that professional drivers ought to do as a courtesy and a safety measure so that you are not accelerating and decelerating and trying to pass people,” Marsden said. “I think it’s important to have this discussion and hear the pros and cons.”
Commuters were trapped on the roadway in the Stafford County area following a snowstorm that led to multiple crashes on I-95. Vehicles were at a standstill, some for 24 hours, shutting off their engines in frigid weather to conserve dwindling fuel, many with little to no food or water.
Marsden, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, noted that multiple jackknifed tractor-trailers had contributed to the mess.
“Trucks become extraordinarily more dangerous in slippery weather,” Marsden said.
Marsden told WTOP that the only concern he has heard about the bill so far is that it could make it more difficult for other drivers to get to the right side so they can exit the highway.
He said it would not be the only potential fix lawmakers will look at. Other legislation may involve more flexible use of the National Guard to help trapped drivers.
The 2022 legislative session is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
“We simply have to find a better way of getting to people who are stranded,” Marsden said. “It’s going to be a topic of conversation in Richmond this year.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation said it was working with Virginia State Police and the state’s Department of Emergency Management to assemble a comprehensive timeline of events to analyze what went wrong on I-95.
“While initial reports indicate that extreme weather conditions combined with disabled vehicles and multiple incidents were the primary factors contributing to the unprecedented blockages, we recognize the severe distress experienced by those traveling on Jan. 3, 2022,” VDOT said in a statement.
The department said that its report would address performance gaps and focus on finding ways to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.