MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Law enforcement from three states are planning a series of campaigns in the coming weeks aimed at one of the state’s most deadly stretches of highway. Interstate 81 flows through West Virginia for only a few miles, but it has an abnormally high amount of accidents and fatalities.

“People are impatient and that’s why we have a lot of problems,” said Sgt. J.D. Burkhart of the West Virginia State Police. “People drive too fast; they’re talking on their cell phones and texting.  We have a lot of crashes and too many fatalities.”

The highway is heavy congested and most times of the day and drivers are flying because the road is three lanes and fairly straight in West Virginia. The plans call for unannounced upticks in enforcement not only on the West Virginia stretch, but also in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“We’ll try to flood the area with troopers and curb some of the problems,” Burkhart said. “We’ll work together on unannounced dates to look for distracted driving and aggressive driving.”

Burkhart said with that many authorities on the road they’ll also use it for a drug interdiction period said the route has become a notorious pipeline for drugs, especially heroin.

Burkhart said at one time it wasn’t so bad, but more and more people have left I-95 and use I-81 as an alternate route to escape the traffic. Now, 81 is becoming equally dangerous. Burkhart hopes their future blitzes will help since they are unable to regularly patrol the highway.

“People traveling from West Virginia and into Maryland and Pennsylvania will see all the law enforcement and hopefully respond.” he said. “People see a heavy law enforcement presence and they tend to slow down, and they should.”


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  • Hillbilly

    I think that the semi's are the most dangerous drivers anywhere . They have no common sense , love the left lane going up hill .

    • Jonus Grumby

      The most dangerous driver on the road is a mother behind the wheel of a minivan full of kids while she's talking on the cellphone.

  • Jonus Grumby

    If you drive much less than 70 on I-81 you will get run over. Drop the speed limit on I-81 to 60 & hope the drivers slow down to 70.

  • Jonathan

    81 is bad but they should also take a look at I-64 between Charleston and Huntington...very similar behavior and many accidents as a result of aggressive driving!

  • william

    Why can the State Police fly and speed way above speed limit all the time?
    They are breaking the law!
    Can should be turned in and they should also get a ticket when they break the law!

  • Roger

    Police presence does work. Like it or not, everyone in the eastern US slows down to 50 MPH when the get to Summersville!!

  • pc

    Curious about the trooper's comment regarding texting and cell phone usage. I don't know about any of you in other parts of the state, but here in southern WV I haven't noticed much of a change in cell phone usage since the law was changed to ban such use (and texting). Go along any road where someone is going 20-30 mph slower than the posted speed limit and if you're lucky enough to be able to pass, more likely than not the driver is on a HANDS HELD cell phone!! I'm sure that as the trooper mentions, such usage is factor in some of these wrecks on I-81. To me, the enforcement of the cell phone ban law has been quite lax, at least in southern WV. I don't know to what extent the state police are able to pursue this issue, but it seems to me in case of a serious accident with injuries and, or, deaths, they should be able to examine the cell phones of the drivers, if present, to see if they were in use at the time of the accident.

  • teebird

    Most cars on 81 and all the other interstates in WV travel over 80 MPH. Try driving 64 between Huntington and Charleston for instance and see how long it takes for a psychopath to start sucking at your tail pipe. Impatient, crazy, strung out on drugs and meth pretty much sums it all up. Kudos to the police for seeking to ticket motorists on 81. How many more deaths will it take before someone finally does stand up to this madness? People have it in their minds the left lane is the FAST LANE meaning go whatever speed possible. I say cut the speed limit to 60 and dare anyone to speed!

    • Jonathan

      Well said. It is out of control on I-64.

  • Marie

    While I agree that there are fast drivers on 81, there are just as many slow drivers. I travel 81 every day to work and I do the speed limit. Everyday I get stuck behind other vehicles doing anywhere between 50 & 60. These drivers can cause just as many accidents as the speeders. If people don't like to travel 81 because of the speed take alternative routes!

    • ShinnstonGuy


    • ViennaGuy

      Well said, Marie. People going slower than the prevailing speed of traffic are just as much of a danger going much faster than the prevailing speed of traffic. This has actually been studied to be true - it's called the Solomon Curve.

      • Aaron

        Another issue is drivers riding in the PASSING lane, impeding the flow of traffic. I would venture to guesstimate that 92.76542% of all interstate accidents are caused by drivers who refuse to move over to the right.

        • ViennaGuy

          Agreed! I would like to see law enforcement start ticketing people for riding the passing lane.

  • john

    To Steve....I carry uninsured motorist coverage on my insurance as it is mandatory and if you live in West Virginia you do too. This is to cover the deadbeats who do not have insurance. So for your analysis of whats driving insurance rates up, better take another look. One of those massive pileups can easily cost well over a milllion dollars or more,and the insurance companies are not going to lose money, so they tack it on to everyone. Your're right about one thing, thank God the pileups don't happen that often, but the potential will always be there until people drive with common sense, which I doubt will ever happen....

  • Patty Berry

    Glad to see they're trying to save lives Thanks for all the work you do and getting drugs off the street Blessing

  • Cecil

    Be like the state of TN. They have a 18wheeler that's marked with lights and everything. They use it to travel the interstate here where they can get a better view of what drivers are doing and it's stopped some but if it saves just one life it's worth it

  • john

    If drivers would just slow down and drive like they have some sense, most of those accidents could be avoided. Some think that the interstates are race tracks, and think that they have just got to pass up everything in sight. The fines should be doubled for speeding on any interstate, since the posted limit is high already. Major pileups such as these is what drives up insurance costs for the rest of us who drive safely. When driving on any interstate, I don't worry about me, I worry about the other idiots who have no respect or common sense.

    • Kevin

      Agree with you 100%

    • Steve

      The problem is that people are darting in and out of traffic. It is not necessarily the speed. As for what is driving the cost of insurance up, that would be the always popular uninsured motorist, not major pile-ups. Those are few and far between.

  • Fred

    The most dangerous drivers on 81 are the troopers speeding in the left lane while talking on the phone.

  • DWL

    I so agree, but it should have never gotten to this point. The simplest solution - any ticket written on I-81 in WV, to which a fine is imposed, the revenues needs to be 100% re-invested is enforcement patrols on I-81. That means the best cruisers, radar equipment, optical readers, overtime, etc.. But it must be 100% of the revenue re-invested to keep the roadway safe. The school board gets 0%.

    • Harpers Ferry

      I agree. Our growing police state should be locking people away rather than educating them. SMH

      • DWL

        Works for me, seeing how they wasted it on Harpers Ferry residents that can't comprehend what they read. SMH! Explains why so few can drive in Jefferson County sober.

  • DWL

    Just a few lives late and a whole lot of wasted money! Trying to correct the Mattox Mess. Throw more money at it. They've been caught in so many lies, what's one more.

    • THR

      Any stepped up law enforcement on I 81 will be appereciated. I 81 in Berkeley Co has become a death trap. I will be glad when all the Canadians in rv's towing cars headed back to Quebec from the south are off the road.

      • Wowbagger

        Interesting, I have nothing against Canadians, but sometimes I-79 and US 19 have more Ontario cars than any other state or province including West Virginia mostly going to or from the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, or Noth Carolina. It's a shame Ben Franklin wasn't able to incorporate Canada into the US as they fit together pretty well.