Interstate 40 across Arkansas is one of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Major Truck Corridors. Across nearly the entire state the highway carries over 8500 trucks per day.
It is also one of the most dangerous highways in the country. A recent study comparing accident data from 2013-2016 to traffic volumes identified this stretch of I-40 as the fourth most dangerous road for truck drivers. Of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Arkansas, four of them are along Interstate 40 (see Appendix A).
A closer look at accident data for Arkansas, collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, indicates that the sections of roadway where the most accidents occur are actually just outside of larger centers of population, including Little Rock, Memphis and Texarkana. Figure 2 shows the areas where the highest concentrations of truck accidents occur. Many of them are not in the center of the larger cities, but on sections of roadway where truck drivers are coming in and out of these larger population centers.
A Heatmap of incidents involving heavy trucks in Arkansas
Pulaski County, home to Little Rock, is the most populous county in Arkansas. There are several areas within Pulaski County where recent fatalities have occurred. These areas are just outside of Little Rock, along highways 30, 40, and 67.
The same is true in Benton County, home to several population centers. The sections of roadway with the most trucker fatalities are not within the cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, or Rodgers. Rather, they are on stretches of road outside of town, or in between towns.
Truck Safety in Arkansas
While Interstate 40 is the fourth most dangerous highway in America, it is not the only place in Arkansas where truckers face peril. There are high rates of incidents involving heavy trucks elsewhere in the state. For the ten-year period from 2007 through 2016, only 17% of all accidents involving heavy trucks in Arkansas occurred along Interstate 40.
Arkansas is fairly dangerous in comparison with the rest of the country as well. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arkansas suffered 1.51 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled for the year 2016. This is significantly higher than the U.S. average of 1.16. Arkansas’s rate was the sixth highest in the nation, behind Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and South Carolina.
An analysis of FARS (Federal Analysis Reporting System) data shows no clear indication of a trend, upward or downward, in the rate of truck accidents in recent years. Nationally, the frequency of truck accidents decreased sharply between 2005 and 2009, but has increased more recently (although not to the levels of 2005). In Arkansas, since 2008, there have been some minor fluctuations, but no significant trend.
With no significant trend in the overall number of traffic accidents involving heavy trucks, Arkansas continues to be one of the more dangerous states in the country to travel through. Interstate 40 across Arkansas was rated the fourth most dangerous road for truckers.
Truckers face particular peril while headed in and out of population centers across the state. In particular, the stretch of road between Little Rock and Memphis can be perilous. The four most dangerous stretches of road in Arkansas are all along interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis.
Arkansas has a relatively high rate of accidents, compared with the rest of the nation, with no significant downward trend in recent years. With no major changes anticipated in the coming years, drivers and truckers need to continue to exercise caution when traveling through Arkansas, particularly headed in and out of population centers.
Appendix A: The Five Most Dangerous Stretches of Highway in Arkansas