Blue Ridge Parkway takes steps to increase safety

Here’s the press release from the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Lower gas prices, higher visitation numbers for the year, and estimates
from travel industry professionals for a busy travel season are top of mind
as Blue Ridge Parkway rangers prepare for the upcoming Fourth of July
holiday. Visitor and traffic safety on the Parkway is always of paramount
concern, and in recent years strides have been made to decrease the number
of traffic incidents.

In 2001, a traffic study was initiated to determine the number of motor
vehicle wrecks along the Parkway during a 5 year period, after the seeing a
year with 450 wrecks on the Parkway. The study organized information about
wrecks into several categories including type of vehicle, number and type
of injuries, number and type of fatalities, precise dates and times, as
well as locations of the incidents. Using this information, a traffic
safety campaign was begun to monitor and reduce wrecks in the geographic
areas identified as hotspots in the study.

One of the major findings of the study indicated that areas with unique
road features such as descending radius curves, or “spiral curves”, and in
some cases, overlooks, further contributed to loss of attention and
distracted driving. Schedules were adjusted and law enforcement rangers
began to patrol at the locations and at times identified in the study in an
effort to reduce the number of wrecks. In addition, a new “aggressive
sign” program was initiated to identify and place signs with symbols that
accurately described and illustrated the nature of the curve and also
illustrated the type of wrecks occurring in targeted areas.

The first signs were installed in the Pisgah district of the Parkway at Mt.
Lyn Lowery (Milepost 445.2) in August of 2002, an area that, that at the
time, was experiencing an

average of five wrecks a year. Since the sign installation in 2002, only 3
wrecks have occurred in that area, with only one reported injury. Several
other locations were also identified, including an area near Linville
Falls, where a 3 mile section of road, was identified as a “High Collision
Area” due to the number of unique curves occurring throughout that section.
This area was seeing an average of 8 wrecks per year, several with
fatalities. Various safety signs were installed in 2003, including “spiral
curve” and “moto-man” signs. The moto man signs in particular are meant to
address the high number of motorcycle wrecks the Parkway sees each year.
Since the signs were installed in 2003, only 11 wrecks have occurred
throughout this section, and of those only three reported injuries and
there have been no fatalities. Other areas along the Parkway identified as
high frequency wreck areas have also been signed and are experiencing
similar reductions in incidents. The following chart outlines annual park
wide wreck totals and demonstrates the success of the program.

YEAR | Parkway Wide Motor
| Vehicle Wrecks
2000 | 450 +
2001 | 442
2002 | 411
2003 | 409
2004 | 361
2005 | 358
2006 | 373
2007 | 345
2008 | 253
2009 | 281
2010 | 252
2011 | 254

As the summer travel season continues, and on the 10-year anniversary of
initiating its traffic safety and aggressive sign program, the Parkway is
pleased to report a significant reduction in motor vehicle incidents.
However, continued success is ultimately in the hands of Parkway visitors.
Enjoy the View. Watch the Road.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, in linking the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains
National Parks, is dedicated to enhancing the outstanding scenic and
recreational qualities of the corridor that it traverses, conserving
unimpaired its significant natural and cultural resources, and promoting in
perpetuity the public enjoyment and appreciation of the central and
southern Appalachian mountains. Learn more about the Parkway at

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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