Sevier residents say changes to dangerous Chapman Highway not en

Sevier residents say changes to dangerous Chapman Highway not enough

Posted:
New rumble stripes were added. New rumble stripes were added.
"They can be very helpful for some distractions going on in the car," said Lt. Don Boshears. "They can be very helpful for some distractions going on in the car," said Lt. Don Boshears.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

SEYMOUR (WATE) - For years, it's been a busy and often times dangerous road, but a deadly wreck in September prompted calls for change.

T-DOT completed a round of safety upgrades along Chapman Highway spurred by public outcry when a van from Cedar Grove Baptist Church, filled with teenagers on their way back from a retreat, was hit head on by a Chevy Blazer.

Investigators say the SUV crossed the center line, sending the van into a ditch. Youth pastor Jeff Trussell, 45, and Courtney Kaliszewski, 16, were killed.

Immediately after the accident, residents in the area demanded safety changes for Chapman Highway. Many said they had seen their share of accidents but never any change. Now change has come but many of those residents say it's not enough.

Cars continue to speed past the cross that marks the accident site, and while the memorial marker begins to fade, a newly painted rumble stripe shines bright down the center line. 

"It helps some, because it wakes you up when you run across it," explained Roger Lee Rogers, who has lived and worked near the accident site for 20 years. 

T-DOT just completed a seven mile stretch of rumble stripe, or grooved markings, down Chapman Highway.

"I guess it helps a lot, you can hear it, you can hear the noise real loud," said Charles Rayfield, who has also worked and lived off Chapman Highway for more than 20 years.

6 news spoke with both Rogers and Rayfield just after the crash and both said changes needed to be made. Now, they say this is not what they had in mind.

"We need turning lanes all the way up this highway" said Rogers. "It would prevent a whole lot of accidents. The rumble stripes nice but the turning lane is what we need."

The Tennessee Highway Patrol says the grooved stripe is a good safety improvement for the accident prone stretch of road.

"They can be very helpful for some distractions going on in the car, you drift over, you hit 'em, you look up and you may have time to correct whatever action is going on there," explained Lt. Don Boshears. 

But Lt. Boshears couldn't say whether the stripe would have prevented September's crash.

"Every crash is different, they happen for different reasons."

But Rogers and Rayfield have seen their share of accidents and say a turn lane is the only thing that will help. But after more than two decades of living off the road, they don't have high hopes for real change.

"Everybody talks about it and then they quit and we don't hear it anymore," said Rayfield.

Rogers agreed. 

"Not in my life time, maybe in my kid's life time."

Sen. Doug Overby was quick to respond to public outcry after the accident over residents demands for improvements. He said he is happy with how quickly T-DOT added the rumble stripe.

"It can sometimes take years to get highway projects going," Sen. Overby said over the phone.

But he added this is a good first step, adding more needs to be done.

This week a Sevier County grand jury handed up indictments against the driver of the SUV in the crash.

Tyler Schaeffer faces charges including vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and DUI. Troopers say they also found narcotics on Schaeffer at the time of the crash. 

 

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