BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It happens several times each week. A wreck is reported on I-10 in South Mississippi, some of them serious. Traffic is backed up for miles, and delays can be hours long. Why is there such a problem?
If you travel I-10 in South Mississippi, you see traffic, lots of traffic. Then, there are the wrecks. There's one primary reason why they happen, according to Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Chase Elkins.
"The highway patrol is probably the lowest staffed that it's ever been, and so people aren't used to seeing a whole lot of us. Therefore, they don't use as much caution as they would if they saw us," Elkins explained. "It's very rare do we see anyone going 70. When we do, that often causes problems, because of the drivers that are driving well over 70."
Drunk driving plays a role, but Elkins said something else does as well.
"The other big problem that we see is texting and driving, distracted driving, looking at wrecks that are on the opposite side of the interstate."
The crashes take a very human toll.
"We had 40 fatalities last year in our district, which is the bottom six counties on the coast. Out of those 40 fatalities, seven of those were on Interstate 10," Elkins said.
He added that certain areas are more dangerous than others.
"The big accidents are happening where I-10 is on four lanes; two lanes going eastbound, two lanes going westbound. That's where most of our problem is," said Elkins.
When crashes do occur, it not only ties up state troopers and ambulance companies, it also ties up police departments across South Mississippi.
"It takes at least three patrolmen to go and assist, flag traffic, to warn other drivers that an accident has taken place on the interstate. That cuts the presence in the city down to half, so it creates quite a problem for us," Capt. Casey Baxter, with the Gautier Police Department, explained.
Some of the congestion on I-10 will be helped with a widening project that is now underway in west Jackson County. Additional lanes are being added in both directions from the Ocean Springs exit to just east of Hwy. 57.