Gridlock Guy: A loose horse causes three crashes and shuts down I-20 one May night

A horse got loose and galloped into I-20 traffic in Downtown Atlanta, sustaining injuries. Three cars hit it and at least two passengers were hurt on May 23rd, 2024. Credit: GDOT camera

Credit: Georgia Department of Transportation

Credit: Georgia Department of Transportation

A horse got loose and galloped into I-20 traffic in Downtown Atlanta, sustaining injuries. Three cars hit it and at least two passengers were hurt on May 23rd, 2024. Credit: GDOT camera

Atlanta drivers see and dodge far more than they should. Concussive crashes routinely shut roads. Fires at or near bridges — or the contact from oversized and improperly operated trucks — too often shut down those spans. A downpour of rain or a thimble-full of wintry precipitation trip up commuters more effectively than a banana peel in “Mario Kart.” And multiple roads at any one time are in some sort of perpetual construction.

And, yes, a stray animal can cause havoc every so often.

This was sadly true late one recent Thursday night, when a horse got loose from its owners and caused multiple wrecks on I-20/westbound near I-75/85 (Downtown Connector).

On May 23, a horse trotted into lanes after 10 p.m., immediately triggering chaos. According to the Atlanta Police report, a Mazda Miata struck it, damaging the small car’s front fender, driver’s side mirror, and windshield. As the officer spoke to that driver, he noticed other vehicles with equine-induced damage.

A Nissan Rogue had hit the horse, similarly sustaining heavy front end and windshield damage. The driver’s sibling took them to the hospital for back pain-treatment, while the four children in the car were not noticeably hurt at the time.

A Chevy Equinox driver also struck the terrified creature, damaging the hood, front fender, and side mirror. An ambulance carried a teenage passenger with blurry vision and nausea to the hospital. The Chevy driver also complained of a headache. Unlike the other two vehicles in this strange melee, the Chevy was still driveable.

All three autos struck the horse in the far left lane, the fast lane, meaning this terrified farm animal had crossed multiple freeway lanes. The large, dark horse was barely visible in the dark of night.

I covered this crash, whilst filling-in on an evening shift on the 95.5 WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center. As APD and GDOT shut down I-20/westbound completely for more than an hour, APD corralled the wounded animal, which stood on the right shoulder of the ramp to I-75/85/northbound (Exit 57). But the horse was so dark — and unexpected — I had to know that a horse was there to even look for it. I initially thought the responders were just taking an incredibly long time to clear crashed cars out of lanes. Upon finding out the exacerbating factor in this closure, my reports took on a different tone.

The horse actually looked fairly content on our Jam Cam view of the scene. Officers kindly stroked its mane and kept it calm, as they waited for someone to secure it.

Its owner arrived at the scene about an hour after the initial crash with a trailer in tow. They told APD that they were at a party and the horse got loose from their adult son. Somehow, the horse made its way onto the interstate, likely scared out of its mind.

The officer stated in the report that the horse, unfortunately, appeared to have severe, life-threatening injuries.

As lanes started to open around 11 p.m., WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Andrew Cicco was able to sound the all-clear on the air. And while the horse, we found out later, was in bad shape, the chaos could have been much worse.

Minor injuries to people could have been major injuries. A surprisingly low number of cars hit the horse, considering the number of lanes it had to cross. And the horse could have limped away from APD and remained a danger to itself and others for far longer.

This all goes to show that full attention is needed behind the wheel at all times. The thud of a horse jarred alive a potentially drowsy, late night, pre-summer drive. No one should take the hum and serenity of night driving for granted, especially in Atlanta.

And pet owners and animal caretakers should never take for granted the security of their precious creatures, big or small.

Distractions and rushing around can cause anyone to forget to hold their horses.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at