Monday, Jul 9, 2012
A traffic study was begun at Blue Ridge Parkway in 2001 to determine the number of motor vehicle accidents along the parkway during a five-year period. The study was triggered by a very high number of accidents the previous year – in excess of 450.
The information gathered in the study classified accidents in several categories, including type of vehicle, injuries, fatalities, and the month, day and time of day. From that study, the period of time when most accidents occurred was determined, as were the areas where they were most likely to occur. It was also found that those areas often had unique and contributing road features associated with them, such as descending radius curves, “spiral” curves, and, in some cases, overlooks, which required a driver’s full time and attention.
Schedules were adjusted and law enforcement rangers began to patrol those areas during those times to monitor and hopefully reduce the number of accidents. The park’s landscape architect was also consulted in order to identify and sign those areas with symbols that accurately described and illustrated the nature of the curve and the type of accidents occurring. The result was a program to place oversized signs with unique characters and symbols in order to gain drivers’ attention.
The first signs were installed at Mount Lyn Lowery in the Pisgah District in August, 2002 – an area which at the time averaged four to six accidents each year. Since the signs were installed, only three accidents and one injury have been reported at that location.
Several other locations were identified, including an area near Linville Falls where a three-mile section of road was identified as a “high collision area” due to its particular attributes, including some unique curves. It was posted in 2003. That area had averaged eight accidents a year, a high number of them involving motorcycles. Several fatalities had also occurred. In the years since the new signs were placed there, a total of eleven accidents have occurred, with no deaths and only three injuries.
Other areas of the parkway with frequent accidents have since been similarly posted and have seen similar drops in accidents.
Since the implementation of the traffic safety program and the aggressive sign installation program, the park has reduced the number of annual accidents, injuries and fatalities occurring on the parkway – from over 450 plus in 2000 to 254 last year.