Tennessee, North Carolina partnership aims to curtail crashes on the ‘Dragon’

Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Law enforcement in Tennessee and North Carolina are trying to keep motorists on U.S. Highway 129 safe this summer.

The Tennessee Highway Safety Office, North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, Tennessee Highway Patrol, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and local law enforcement are covering the winding road known as the “Tail of the Dragon” from “Border to Border.”

The 11-mile stretch of roadway spans from Blount County, Tennessee, through Swain and Graham counties in North Carolina.

“As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and summer travel begins, traffic is expected to increase in scenic areas where people enjoy driving with the top down and riding motorcycles,” THSO Director Buddy Lewis said. “The winding stretch of U.S. 129 … is a prime location for recreational travel. Our goal is to spread awareness and prevent traffic crashes, because these areas can be very dangerous, especially for vulnerable roadway users like motorcyclists.”

According to Tennessee’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network, there were 93 traffic crashes on the Blount County side of the Dragon in 2019. Sixty-three of those crashes involved a motorcycle. Four people died. Three of them were motorcyclists.

In Tennessee, more than 150 motorcyclists died statewide in 2019.

“During Memorial Day weekend, Tennessee Troopers will be vigilant on Tennessee roadways. Troopers will be looking for any unsafe driving behavior,” THP Col. Matt Perry said. “Drivers should always adhere to the posted speed limit, buckle up, put the phone down, look twice for motorcyclists, and never drink and drive.

“If you are riding a motorcycle in the state of Tennessee, you must wear the proper helmet and eye protection.”

The Highway Patrol ask if you see unsafe driving behavior to call a dispatch centers by dialing *THP (*847) to report it.

In 2019, there were 10 traffic crashes on North Carolina’s side of the Dragon, according to North Carolina’s Traffic Engineering Accident Analysis System. Six of those crashes involved a motorcycle, but none resulted in a fatality.

In coordination with the “Border to Border” partnership, state and local law enforcement agencies in Tennessee and North Carolina are participating in “Click It or Ticket,” a nationwide effort to reduce traffic fatalities by increasing seat belt use. The “Click It or Ticket” campaign is running through June 6.

“May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month for a reason,” UT Medical Center’s Dr. Brian J. Daley said. “All drivers must pay attention and exercise caution when driving through areas where motorcyclists are prevalent.

“The most important piece of safety equipment is the operator of the car or motorcycle. We advise motorcycle riders to wear protective gear, boots, and jackets, because they help prevent painful injuries like road rash. Reflective gear is also important to ensure the rider’s visibility to other drivers. And finally, riders should always wear a helmet to reduce the risk traumatic brain injury.”

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