"All I could do was really brace myself and a succession of cars hit from behind and in front," said driver Terrence Patterson.
The Highway Patrol says speed and the weather played a big role. Drivers say they could hardly see the car ahead.
"I think the rain is the probably biggest cause. A lot of people were unable to see. It was a hard rain, a misty rain and the vision was impaired," said driver John Hughes.
The posted speed limit on I-40 in Durham is 65 miles-per-hour, but Eyewitness News clocked a majority of drivers Thursday going at speeds in excess of 80-mph.
The Highway Patrol, Durham County sheriff's deputies, and Durham police share the responsibly of regulating speed on portions of the highway - but say limited resources keep them from keeping a closer eye on dangerous drivers.
"The speed limit out there is 65. People out there go faster. You can't get them all. We run operations out there along with Durham PD and the Highway Patrol, but there are a lot more cars out there running the speed limit and faster than the speed limit than we have cars to patrol them," offered Major Richard Buchanan with the Durham County Sheriff's Office.
The highway patrol is still sorting through statements from the drivers involved in the pile-up. They haven't said what caused the accident.
But Buchanan has some simple advice:
"Follow the rules of the road. Leave enough space between your car and the car in front of you. In inclement weather, slow down, I mean that is the key right there, just slow down," he said.