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Group identifies East TN roads with most crashes, hopes to eliminate fatal crashes in region

A new plan to make roadways safer across East Tennessee is bringing a different kind of approach, aimed at completely stopping life-altering incidents.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Driving through Knoxville's roads carries a different kind of beauty. It's filled with the colors of nature. However, in the last few years, some of those drives turned fatal.

According to the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), around 30% of fatal and serious injury crashes take place on a small portion of the road network in Knoxville. 

TPO has now identified 12 roadways that are mostly responsible and they're taking action. Ellen Zavisca, the TPO principal transportation planner, said the Roadway Safety Action Plan has a new approach.

"It's engineers, planners, law enforcement, community members, other organizations working together in kind of a new way to really improve the safety of our transportation systems," Zavisca said.

This action plan takes into consideration that humans make mistakes. Zavisca said the goal is zero deaths or serious injuries on East Tennessee's roadways. 

"Really looking at those systemic contributors to the most serious crashes," said Zavisca.

She said one of the most common crash types is when someone loses control and veers off the road. That's one example of the kinds of crashes that planners are looking at.

"Those are tough to address just one by one. They happen all over the place, there isn't really a pattern to them," Zavisca said. "We can look at things like what's going on with that roadway, what type of curves are in it? What other things are going on alongside that roadway? "

The plan is data-driven and it examines the whole region. Some of the hotter spots are in downtown and some others are outside of Knoxville. The list starts from the most to the least crashes per mile. 

"Downtown Henley streets right over here, that's a high crash location," said Zavisca. "Broadway and Chapman highway -- both see a lot of fatal and serious crashes ... Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge, for example. There's a couple in Clinton, there's a couple in Maryville and Alcoa."

For now, the next step is for the plan to receive funding and move forward with making the streets safer.  

TPO is also receiving feedback from the public through a survey which people can find it here. Their goal is to get to zero fatalities.

"We can prevent fatal and serious crashes that changed people's lives forever. And that we can work together to do that," Zavisca said. "It's not an easy goal to get to, to get to zero fatalities. But it's something that we have as the vision for what we're doing here."

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