Friday, September 12, 2008

Drivers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Slow Down!

Anyone planning on driving in the Great Smoky Mountains national park on Newfound Gap Road (US 441), Laurel Creek Road, Little River Road and the section of the Foothills Parkway known as the Spur need to watch their speed especially this weekend as with the increased traffic from the Rod Run being held in Pigeon Forge traffic will be heavier and more than likely so will enforcement.

Traffic fatalities by far are the top danger to visitors in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. There are many hazards when driving in the National park, steep winding roads with blind curves with little or no guard rails, fallen trees branches and leaves after a storm, rock slides and beautiful scenery and wild animals that can distract a driver.

While these factors that can present a danger to drivers in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are unavoidable, driving and an excessive speed, passing cars in no passing zone (only small limited areas in the park are passing zones) and stopping in the roadway to observe and photograph deer, bear, coyote, fox or wild turkey and driving under the influence are all causes of serious and fatal accidents that can be completely avoided.

Another insanely dangerous activity visitors in the park partake in is riding bicycles on GSMNP roads that and have no shoulder and numerous blind curves where a car traveling at a safe rate of speed can come up behind a biker and when turning on the curve either hit a bicyclist, get hit from behind and they are slowing down to avoid a rider or swerving into oncoming traffic also rounding a blind curve or driving of the edge of the road.

Bicyclist should not under any circumstance ride on Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms and the Townsend Wye. Honestly based upon the width of the roads and other dangers to drivers and riders, cyclists should be banned from all major roads in the park other than the Cades Cove Loop, Greenbriers roads, Elkmont's roads, and campground areas until bike lanes are put in.

Winter driving conditions with snow and ice in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are also particularly dangerous especially in the afternoon as previously safe roads can freeze up rapidly before the park service has a chance to close the road. Fog is also a concern especially higher up in elevation above the Chimneys on the Tennessee side and the Kephart Prong Trailhead on the North Carolina side.

Last but not least. Please do not beep your horn in the tunnels along Laurel Creek Road, the Spur and Newfound Gap Road. The sound can carry for miles - just ask any hikers along the AT.

Beeping your horn in a tunnel serves no purpose but to disturb others, the parks wildlife and engineers have told me the noise from a horn which is vibrations actually weakens structures over time.

So please for your own safety and others visiting the Great Smoky Mountains national park, drive safely and slow down!

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