Is Highway 27 Becoming Even More Dangerous?
A Look at the Alarming Fatality Numbers on highway 27 in Walker and Chattooga Counties
Make your peace with God if you travel highway 27 in northwest Georgia regularly. From 2018 to 2022 in Walker and Chattooga counties, there were 90 traffic fatalities. Nearly half happened on this highway.
Additionally, highway 27 was also the scene of 1,540 non-fatal crashes involving nearly 3,000 vehicles, leaving close to 1,000 individuals injured.
Some blame can be leveled at drivers but that would be a mistake and most often counterproductive.
With the region projected to continue growing, this stretch of road is going to see more accidents and more fatalities if it is left alone. One major problem is the design of highway. It’s wide open and forgiving design was appropriate when it was built. Now though, the traffic environment is more crowded and more complex and the design encourages drivers feel like they can speed and worse, gives them a sense that they have a wider margin of error.
Traffic fatalities are one of the most easily preventable forms of death and also one of the most devastating on families and communities.
This is a problem that should be confronted sooner rather than later.
When the road was originally constructed, its primary objective was to connect one place to another. It was designed to facilitate traffic flow at higher speeds. To allow for driver error, it was given wide lanes, wide shoulders, few roadside objects etc. Over time, however, with the addition of more intersections, traffic lights, businesses, schools, and school zones, the traffic conditions have transformed. This evolution, coupled with the road's initial design, has unfortunately made it a hotspot for potentially deadly accidents.
The interstate comparison is a good way to think of this though, Imagine if we were to intersperse I-75 from Ringgold to Dalton with numerous traffic lights, gas stations, businesses, school zones, and turn lanes, mimicking the current environment on highway 27 today. The outcome would be catastrophic. Similar to the design of highway 27, interstates are designed to facilitate quick, uninterrupted travel. Introducing elements that were not part of the original design blueprint disrupts this flow, paving the way for deadly disasters.
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Today, the area is growing and changing. The infrastructure must change and adapt too.
Check out the video below. Definitely worth your time. It's a presentation by a civic engineer speaking to a group of city planners, developers, elected officials who struggle with the same types of problem. He does a great job explaining it, particularly for those of us without an engineering background.