There’s a back up on the highway again, and it’s in the dead spot where the radio doesn’t come in quite right. The next exit is a mile away, and the shoulder of the road is clogged with drivers trying to get out of the jam. Semi trucks’ air brakes sigh as the monstrous vehicles grind to a halt. Other drivers give up and place their vehicles in park – or just shut them completely off.
It’s going to be a while.
There’s been another accident.
Campbell County is traversed by several main thoroughfares – Tenn. 116, Interstate 75, U.S. 25W, Tenn. 63 and Tenn. 297. Last year, the highways saw 1,142 of accidents. 321 were accidents with injury. Of those 821 were accidents without injury. The LaFollette Press obtained data from the Campbell County E-911 center for car accident calls between June 1, 2012 and June 6, 2013.
I-75 is the worst road in the county for car accidents, according to Charlie Hutson, Campbell County’s E-911 director. With 31.6 miles of interstate blazing across the county, it’s the second longest road in the county behind US 25. But I-75 is by far the most dangerous. Between June 1, 2012 and June 6, 2013, Campbell County EMS reported 78 accidents with injuries along I-75, many of them resulting in hours-long traffic back ups and few places to exit and take a detour. There were an additional 86 accidents without injuries.
We asked our more than 2,000 LaFollette Press Facebook fans about their experiences with the county’s most dangerous roads. Common answers were Demory Road, Long Hollow Road, Highway 25W, Glade Springs and Pinecrest. Their answers were mostly in line with E-911 data.
Demory Road saw 32 accidents without injury during the previous 12 months. There were an additional six accidents with injuries.
There were five accidents without injury and six accidents with injury during the time frame.
“Glade Springs Road, the intersection there,” wrote Denise Vincent Ivey on Facebook.
There is no red light at the intersection of Glade Springs Road and Gen. Carl W. Stiner Highway
“It’s awful trying to pull out,” added Ashley Huddleston Gibson.
Reader Amanda Partin had just witnessed an accident in front of her house on Glade Springs.
“Someone rear ended someone else just a matter of minutes ago in front of my house. That road is horrible!” she wrote on Monday.
US 25W and Tenn. 9 run parallel to one another in Campbell County for a total of 32.5 miles. E-911 data shows at least 111 accidents without injury along the stretch. There were 77 accidents with injury.
“[US]25W is the most dangerous. It’s not the road, it’s the people driving the roads!” wrote Jellico resident Carolyn Leach.
US 25W careens through the mountains between LaFollette and Jellico for 24 miles. During the spring 2011 rockslide, it was the main detour for southbound travelers for several months. Between LaFollette and Jacksboro, there are hairpin turns, a narrow underpass, and at times, no shoulder.
Between Caryville and LaFollette, the road is relatively flat, but drivers must navigate the split roadway with grassy medians and mandatory U-turns to access businesses on the opposite side of the road. While traffic lights do control cars to some degree, drivers may not always be to blame, according to Facebook fan Tommie Green Condry
“[The] red light in front of the Mexican restaurant [El Pueblito] is where A LOT of accidents happen. I think the light is set wrong. [Both] are green at the same time for a split second,” she wrote.
Amanda Phillips believes that intersection, as well as the intersection with Towe String Road, could use a sign reminding drivers to wait their turn.
“There also needs to be do not block intersection signs at the red light at Food City and the red light at Walgreens. That would help a lot,” she said.
The Walmart plaza sees its fair share of accidents in any given 12-month period. There were 65 accidents without injury either in the parking lot, at the red light or in the McDonald’s parking lot. An additional five accidents in the area resulted in injuries. In some cases, multiple accidents were reported in the Walmart parking lot in the same day.
The Tennessee Department of Safety maintains records about traffic crashes within the state. Data is broken down by what day traffic crashes occur, what time a crash is most likely to occur and which month sees more accidents. The state also examines how many times a crash was caused by a deer, alcohol, or inattention by the driver.
According to the most recent data available from the state, a traffic crash in Campbell County is most likely to occur on any given Friday in the month of December between 3 and 6 p.m.
A driver’s age and experience level can also contribute to traffic crashes. Surprisingly, data from the state said drivers in 11 percent of car accidents were between the ages of 35 and 39. Drivers between 25 and 29 were behind the wheel in 10.5 percent of accidents. Senior drivers between 75 and 79 were responsible for just 2.6 percent of accidents, but that number doesn’t necessarily mean the elderly are safe drivers – it could mean that fewer people in that demographic still drive.
The state department examined car crashes in 2008 and categorized them based on the severity of injuries. That year, there were 2,318 accidents. 1,808 did not result in injuries. There were possible injuries in another 323. Non-incapacitating injuries accounted for 127 accidents. Thirty-six people were incapacitated on Tennessee roadways that year. The status of 14 people was unknown; 10 died.
In 2013, there have already been five deaths on Campbell County roadways.
During the past 12 months, there were 14 fatal accidents resulting in 17 deaths in Campbell County.
Data from the state implies that for the majority of the time, drivers didn’t do anything to contribute to a crash. The next most-likely scenarios include failure to maintain the lane or running off the road, following improperly or failure to yield to the right of way. Believe it or not, cell phone usage was only indicated as a contributing action three times in 2012. Alcohol usage is a far greater contributor to crashes. Between 2003 and 2007, there were an average of 65.4 alcohol-related crashes each year.
Driver inattention was often cited as a reason for traffic accidents, according to Facebook fans. Speeding was also named. One reader said accidents happen because drivers don’t have any “common courtesy.”
“People are speeding, tailgating, pulling out in front of others, in other words completely disregarding traffic laws and just plain old common courtesy. I’m surprised people are not killed or hurt on a daily basis. Of course the secondary roads are dangerous, but at least on most of them you can’t be driving over 50 mph. I think if people would just SLOW DOWN it would help a lot,” wrote Libbi Longmire Lay. “