KNOXVILLE (WATE) – According to AAA of East Tennessee, one in three Tennesseans admit to seeing wrong way drivers at least 3 or 4 times a year.
“When you look at the results of those types of crashes, there’s going to be more deaths and more serious injuries, because you are talking about opposite direction, sides swiping or head on collisions when they do happen,” said Stephanie Milani with AAA.
A 2012 study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in a 7 year span, just over three percent of the nation’s fatal wrong way crashes occurred in Tennessee. A small number, but big enough to rank the state among the top 10 nationally. A figure that lead Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) crews in East Tennessee to make improvements, installing additional wrong way signage as well as reflective arrows to all area ramps at a cost of over $100,000.
“We’ve put them on every access control ramp within our 4 county area as a pilot project within TDOT. You won’t see it throughout other parts of the state, but it’s something we’ve looked at as an additional measure in our area due to the spike in fatal crash,” said Nathan Vatter with Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Of the total 12 deadly wrong way accidents in Knoxville since 2012, almost half have occurred along Interstate 40. The majority of which are near Downtown Knoxville. When you look at its location, layout and proximity to the crashes, the ramp from James White to Summit Hill raises some eyebrows.
“If you’re trying to get on the interstate, you have to go across the bridge. If you don’t know it’s there, you see the first left and think that’s the entrance ramp when in reality it is the exit ramp,” said Milani.
Knoxville Police Department said alcohol or distracted driving area a major factor in most wrong way crashes and that the crashes usually happen at night between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Keeping that in mind as you approach the Summit Hill and James White Interchange at night from from Downtown, you can see just one wide ramp. Wrong way signage and reflective arrows are clearly marked on the ramp, but to an impaired or distracted driver it could be confusing.
TDOT is planning additional wrong way and not left turn signs as well as flashing beacons to be installed at 3 Knoxville interchanges including Summitt Hill at James White Parkway, Cumberland at James White Parkway and Western Avenue at 11th. An investment many hope will help, but the ultimate responsibility still lies with the person behind the wheel.