Interstate 81 runs through the heart of Southwest Virginia, offering scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains and connecting drivers to key cities along its route. For those unfamiliar with the region, or even seasoned drivers looking for a refresher, understanding how to navigate this highway safely is paramount.
The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates that roughly 2,000 car crashes happen on the I-81 each year. The unique landscape, weather patterns and traffic conditions of Southwest Virginia all influence how one should approach driving on I-81.
Maintain a safe driving distance
One of the primary rules when driving on I-81 is to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. This buffer allows you adequate time to react should there be any sudden stops or changes in traffic flow. Especially in areas with hills or curves, maintaining this distance is important to ensure you have a clear view of what lies ahead and can adjust your driving accordingly.
Be cautious in adverse weather conditions
Southwest Virginia experiences varied weather conditions, from rain and fog to snow in the winter months. If you find yourself driving on I-81 during adverse weather, pull over until conditions improve. If that is not an option, reduce your speed, turn on your headlights and increase your following distance. Remember, wet or icy roads can dramatically increase stopping distances.
Do not overtake others
Overtaking other vehicles, especially on two-lane sections of I-81, requires extra caution. Before making a move, ensure you have a clear view of the road ahead and that no one is trying to pass you. If you are in doubt or if overtaking is not necessary, it is always safer to stay in your lane and maintain your speed.
Maintain an appropriate speed
While it might be tempting to drive faster on long stretches of open road, always adhere to the posted speed limits on I-81. Speed limits are set for a reason, considering the road’s design, traffic flow and surrounding environment. Additionally, adjust your speed based on current conditions. For example, during heavy traffic or bad weather, it is wise to drive slower than the posted limit.
Driving on I-81 in Southwest Virginia offers an opportunity to experience some of the state’s most beautiful landscapes. However, it is important to prioritize safety over speed or convenience. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable journey through this picturesque part of Virginia.