MARYVILLE, Tenn. — For the first time, the Tennessee Department of Transportation installed bear crossing signs in Cocke County.
There are four located from the state line to Foothills Parkway. A lot of bears are hit by cars in that area, causing human injuries as well.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency would like to see more signs in other hot spots.
A Maryville man is grateful more is being done to warn drivers after surviving an almost deadly accident after trying to avoid hitting a bear. It happened last March on Morganton Road in Blount County.
It's rare to see a bear in the area, but the man involved says these new signs are just the beginning of raising awareness that could be life saving.
"It means the world to me because it could happen to your mother, father, children," said John Tolman, who spent two weeks in the ICU after his accident on Morganton Road. "I don't like driving on it too much, just this area through here."
He was on the road around midnight and describes the conditions as cloudy, rainy and foggy. He spotted something 40 feet in front of him. It was a bear.
"You would never expect a bear to be out in the road," said Tolman.
Immediately instincts kicked in.
"So I swerved to miss it just as instinct and was put into spin and flipped upside down in the creek," he said.
He was found by first responders upside down and barely breathing.
"My head went out of the sun roof, it was actually out of the sun roof," he said. "They basically said I'd never walk again."
Almost a year later, Tolman is walking again and back at the scene wishing other drivers were aware of what happened that night.
Seeing a bear in that area is few and far between, but he says warning drivers about more bear populated areas is a good start.
"It really does mean a lot to see something like this being presented," he said.
He hopes his story serves as a reminder to always stay alert, no matter where you are.
Along with the signs on I-40, the National Parks Conservation Association is working to develop safe passages for wildlife, like bears, so they're less likely to walk across the roadways.