Thursday, 27 May 2021 12:15

Special Event Launches Border to Border Campaign: Safety vital to Tail of the Dragon motorists in North Carolina, Tennessee

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Special Event Launches Border to Border Campaign: Safety vital to Tail of the Dragon motorists in North Carolina, Tennessee Photo courtesy of Jerry Andrews

DEALS GAP — Tennessee and North Carolina officials today launched an educational campaign to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities on a winding stretch of U.S. 129 known as the Tail of the Dragon. 

Officials from both states announced Border to Border, a campaign to remind drivers to slow down, buckle up and be alert, especially on the 11-mile Tail of the Dragon, the road named for its winding features. The campaign starts on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, when travel starts to increase in both states.

“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,” said THSO Director Buddy Lewis. “The winding stretch of U.S. 129, also known as the Tail of the Dragon, 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.”

Partnering on the campaign are the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO), the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program (NCGHSP), the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), the University of Tennessee Medical Center and local law enforcement.  

According to Tennessee’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network, there were 83 traffic crashes on the Tail of the Dragon in 2018. Sixty-three of those crashes involved a motorcycle. Three people died. All three of them were motorcyclists. In 2019, there were 93 traffic crashes on the Tail of the Dragon. Sixty-three of those crashes involved a motorcycle. Four people died. Three of them were motorcyclists.

“Whether the crashes are at the head or Tail of the Dragon or anywhere in Western North Carolina or East Tennessee, speed, distracted driving and being unbelted are all driving behaviors that have to change,” said NCGHSP Director Mark Ezzell. “Changing driver behaviors is the key to improving overall traffic safety and reducing crashes. Ezzell emphasizes, “The impact of speeding and aggressive driving contributed to numerous crash deaths this past year alone.”

In addition to the educational campaign, 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 through public education and seat belt enforcement. The “Click it or Ticket” campaign will run from today through June 6. 

“During Memorial Day weekend, Tennessee Troopers will be vigilant on Tennessee roadways. Troopers will be looking for any unsafe driving behavior,” said THP Colonel Matt Perry. “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. If you see unsafe driving behavior or see a motorist in need of help, please call one of our dispatch centers by dialing *THP (*847) from your mobile phone.”

Photo courtesy of Terry Clark

There were 5,014 motorcycle fatalities nationwide in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Tennessee, more than 150 motorcyclists died statewide in 2019, according to TITAN. In North Carolina, Swain and Graham counties encompass areas such as Moonshiners 28, Deals Gap, and the Cherohala Skyway, which all feed into the Tail of the Dragon. In 2019, according to North Carolina’s Traffic Engineering Accident Analysis System, there were 10 traffic crashes on the Tail of the Dragon with none involving fatalities. Six of those crashes involved a motorcycle. 

“Our state offers a multitude of unique driving destinations and U.S. 129 is a great example that attracts frequent visitors to the mountains of North Carolina,” said NCSHP Colonel Freddy Johnson, Jr.  “As law enforcement officers we have a duty to ensure that all who share these roadways are safe to do so without becoming a statistic, but we know that everyone has a part to play by ensuring they follow the rules of the roadway.”  

“May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month for a reason,” said Dr. Brian J. Daley from the University of Tennessee Medical Center. “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.”

According to NHTSA, un-helmeted riders are three times more likely than helmeted riders to sustain traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash. Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent and reduce the risk of death by 42 percent, according to 

The campaign compliments the Vision Zero initiative, which aims to save lives on North Carolina and Tennessee roads. The goal is to reach zero traffic-related deaths by changing the overall traffic safety culture.

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Last modified on Thursday, 27 May 2021 12:47