I-285 America’s Deadliest Freeway – What Makes It So Dangerous?

Last updated Monday, April 24th, 2023

I-285 America’s Deadliest Freeway

There’s always a slight risk of getting into an accident while driving. But when you’re driving on Atlanta’s I-285 freeway, the odds of coming out unharmed are seriously stacked against you. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that there are 3.5 fatal accidents per 10 miles on this freeway – the highest rate in America. 

This 64-mile freeway, originally called “The Perimeter,” covers the whole city of Atlanta and connects all major highways in the region. 

Unfortunately, it’s now better known as America’s deadliest freeway because of its non-stop congestion and accidents.

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Contributing Factors to I-285’s Deadliness

You may – “why would anyone build a highway of death like I-285?” Things weren’t always so bad. It was built in 1969 with two lanes in each direction to assist drivers on I-85 and I-75 bypassing the city. 

There are four core factors that contributed to it becoming the deadliest American freeway over the years:

Too many commuters, not enough lanes

I-285 HighwayDid you know over two million drivers are traveling on I-285 daily? It clearly needs more lanes to accommodate the population boom Atlanta has experienced since 1969.

In addition, busy suburbs like Forest Park, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Smyrna, and Tucker surround it.

It’s not surprising that I-285 has five of the top 21 worst highway bottlenecks according to American Transportation Research Institute:

  • I-285’s Spaghetti Junction 
  • I-20 at I-285 
  • I-75 at I-285 North
  • I-285 at SR 400
  • I-20 at I-285 East 

Let’s not forget that I-285 is close to one of the busiest passenger airports in the world – Hartsfield-Jackson. 

Poor road conditions

It’s tough to navigate the numerous tight bends and exit ramps on I-285, especially with improper signage and lighting problems. By the time a driver spots a sharp turn, it’s too late. The lack of lanes is a constant struggle many Atlanta motorists have complained about. 

Even while we were writing this article, there were multiple lanes closed off on I-285 because of car crashes. The I-285 and I-20 intersection, along with the I-285 and I-75 intersection, are particularly tricky parts to navigate. 


Many of the 2 million motorists are out-of-towners using Interstate 285 to bypass Atlanta. As a result, they’re unfamiliar with the local traffic challenges and construction issues this highway is constantly bombarded with. So naturally, they are more likely to make mistakes and get into serious accidents.

Driver BehaviorA signboard - Put your phone down on I-285

Did you know 80% of Georgia drivers admitted to having engaged in road rage at some point? Whether you’re racing to beat the morning rush hour, driving without getting enough sleep, or driving drunk, you’re putting many lives in danger. 

A massive number of oil and goods transport trucks use I-285 every day. And many of these big rig drivers are tired after driving for long hours daily.

So when they get into an accident, you know it will lead to a horrific car crash, possibly involving a multiple-car pile-up. 


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the accident rate on I-285? 

Georgia ranks fourth for the largest number of fatal car accidents in America, with over 1730 fatalities. And I-285 can be credited for a lot of them.

There are 3.5 fatal accidents per 10 miles on this deadly highway.

What are the main causes of accidents on I-285? 

The four primary causes of car accidents on I-285 are:

  • Heavy traffic
  • Poor road conditions
  • Out-of-towners 
  • Reckless behavior

What is being done to improve safety on I-285? 

The Georgia Department of Transport has taken the following measures to improve safety and efficiency of I-285:

  • Increasing highway law enforcement 
  • Installing additional signage 
  • Adding more lane markings
  • Installing more traffic cameras and sensors
  • Improving lighting 
  • Installing guardrails
  • Creating public awareness campaigns to remind drivers to be more mindful

Are there any plans to widen I-285? 

Yes. Georgia state officials plan to expand the top end of the I-285 perimeter to ease traffic congestion. Four lanes will be added to I-285 with two express lanes built above the highway on each side.

How can I stay safe while driving on I-285?

Accidents are unpredictable, but a few basic precautions will help you steer clear of the dangers of driving on I-285:

Be aware of rush hour timings – Morning rush hour on I-285 starts at 6 am and peaks at 8 am. Traffic surges from 3 pm in the evenings and remains steady till 7 pm. Therefore, it’s best to avoid driving through it during these hours if possible.

Stay focused – Avoid driving when you’re tired or intoxicated. Texting and driving, getting distracted by conversations, or road raging are other recipes for disaster. 

Stick to the safety guidelines – Seatbelts and speed limits are your friends. Pay attention to all the road signs and use GPS voice navigation if you need safer and more hands-on guidance. 

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