"Wrong-Way" Driving: Signs, Statistics & Solutions

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - No doubt the Florida game and the Tennessee Valley Fair will make driving through construction zones even more treacherous and easier to find yourself in the wrong lane or going the wrong way.

Last night, Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd looked at the challenges t-dot faces, keeping the road signs up-to-date.

How information from recent wrecks could make your road safer tomorrow.

The past five years, Tennessee's joined with 30 other states in a federal program that shares information, any factor that could have figured into a crash.

But the numbers don't necessarily speak for themselves.

More than two weeks after 23-year-old Charles Snavely died driving the wrong way on I-40, Knoxville Police still don't know whether he'd been drinking, or which on-ramp he used.

But they've found no evidence he crossed any median.

"If you really want to get going on the Interstate the wrong way, you really probably, can make yourself do that," says TDOT spokesman Travis Brickey.

Tennessee's figures show it is getting tougher.

The number of wrong way crashes dropping dramatically last year, compared to three years before, from almost 300, to fewer than 50, 16 deadly wrecks, to 3.

Are more of us paying more attention to the signs and the road changes? Are fewer of us driving drunk, thanks to tougher DUI laws? Maybe both. Tennessee's numbers crunchers haven't fully studied cause and effect.

But sudden changes still bring close calls.

"Did you ever find yourself almost taking the wrong ramp to get on or off the interstate?" Boyd asks.

"Yes actually, off Papermill," admits Stephanie Colbert.

TDOT just re-opened two-way traffic in that stretch of Papermill on Thursday.

But despite the double lines, and temporary electronic sign, Stephanie Colbert missed her left turn at rush hour. "Because there's so much traffic going that way already, everybody was going different ways, so I had to end up going straight."

"There's a few of them that there's confusion," but Jeff Rush's greater worry, as part of the road crew--is the speed of drivers coming through. "Some of them don't pay attention, 45 mile an hour zone, they're doing 55, 60 mile an hour through here."

So, until Papermill's re-working is finished: "Basically, I'm taking the backroads, just because of the traffic and how everybody's driving," Colbert says.

Contrary to statewide, East Tennessee has seen the number of deadly wrong way crashes see-saw the last four years.

Double in 2004 compared to 2003.

About the same time the interstate work kicked into high gear.

But the department of safety hasn't said how many of those wrecks happened near work zones, or what other factors figured.

A reminder it's tricky --making far reaching decisions, based strictly on raw numbers.


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