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Hwy. 515 dangers must be addressed

    It seems like every week we have photos in the paper of horrible vehicle carnage from Highway 515. Even while writing this, there are reports of a fatal collision there. This makes the second fatal collision on the four-lane in Pickens County this month.
    Last week we asked the local state patrol Post Commander Tim Nichols to check the accident rate numbers. What he found left him “honestly, shocked.”
    The  accidents on the four-lane hadn’t just increased, they have skyrocketed, up 53 percent this year over the same January to mid-June period last year.
    In 2014, from January 1 to June 12, the GSP made reports on 275 Pickens County crashes with 47 of those on the four-lane.
    At the time of Nichols’ report, GSP officers had filed reports on 313 crashes with 72 of those on the four-lane. But the Hwy. 515 numbers don’t include wrecks that occur in the intersections of the four-lane, a factor which surely raises the number considerably.
    Looking at the wrecks this year, they are a result of a variety of conditions: vehicles entering the road; turning in front of others; crossing the road; one tractor trailer hitting another; a car hitting a motorcycle; a commercial truck rear-ending a vehicle and pushing it into another vehicle.
    Nichols said the wrecks generally go back to two traffic violations: following too close and drivers not paying attention. In most of the wrecks we have reported on at least one driver, if not both parties, were from out of the area – motorists using the four-lane to get somewhere, rather than local folks running errands.
    Cruising around Highway 515, it may seem odd there are so many wrecks there. The road is very well constructed. The wide lanes, mostly long sight-distances and big dividing median should keep drivers separated.
    But, the first and worst danger is the speed. Traffic flies on those long, straight stretches of concrete. A minor driving mistake when everyone is going 65 mph (or more) results in not so minor damage. And keep in mind 55 mph is actually the speed limit on much of that route through this area. Let’s face it, we all speed there. And The GSP post commander specifically cited the number of people using their phones as another added hazard on the roads.
    When you see two fatalities and a trauma ward full of injuries on the same road in half a year there is a big problem. And  looking at Progress photos of past wrecks, it’s hard to believe the fatalities aren’t higher and the injuries aren’t worse.
    Something needs to be done.
    State agencies are publicizing an increasing problem of fatalities on Georgia roads. In May they launched the “Drive Alert, Arrive Alive” campaign. According to their information there has been a 25-percent increase in fatal wrecks in Georgia over the previous year. More than 450 fatalities have already occurred on Georgia roads this year. Prior to this year, the number of fatalities has decreased most years since 2006. More traffic enforcement and seat belt use are credited with saving lives.
    This problem needs to be addressed at all levels. First with all us who drive a car. Some accidents are unavoidable – someone in your blind spot or misjudging the speed of an approaching vehicle. Other causes are very preventable: texting, speeding, driving while intoxicated.
    We would further ask that all local law enforcement agencies, Jasper police, sheriff and state patrol give more attention to Highway 515/575. While it may already seem like policing is heavy there, obviously it is not, We’d much rather see a speed trap than a death trap.
    Finally, we’d ask the county commissioners, Jasper mayor, DOT and Governor’s Office Highway Safety to see if there are any changes that might improve safety.
    The number of wrecks, the injuries, the damage and fatalities on that four-lane are not acceptable. Highway 515 cuts through the middle of this county. There is no way to avoid it. If you go anywhere, you must either travel on it or cross it.
    Having this big of a risk every time we leave home can’t be ignored. It’s time for action.


0 #1 DK 2015-06-24 15:08
The state can launch all the "campaigns" they want. But until something is physically done like lowering the speed limit, more police patrols and traffic lights. There will continue to be more wrecks.
jessco white
+2 #2 jessco white 2015-06-24 16:27
Yep, more speed trap, less death trap.
+2 #3 Amy 2015-06-26 11:32
Something does need to be done to Highway 515. Traffic lights are a good start and more police presence is good, but the state doesn't seem to want to do anything on Highway 515. Until something is done about how dangerous Highway 515 is to those who use it, no big business, say like a water park, should be added to that corridor. The last thing you want is people from out of state and more volume on that road.
+2 #4 Susan 2015-06-28 08:23
I drove 515 back and forth to work in Kennesaw for years. I generally left Jasper about 6:30 am. No one did 55 mph on 515. If you did, someone would run over you. In all the years that I commuted back and forth I never saw law enforcement patrolling 515 in the early morning hours. They need to. I saw so many near accidents caused by speeding, weaving in and out and following too close.
-2 #5 Ilene 2015-06-28 08:54
I definitely think the speed limit needs to be lowered. I believe we have enough police coverage as I always see either Sheriff, Jasper Police and GSP patrolling.
+2 #6 Wendy 2015-06-28 09:15
The first mistake was ending limited access at the county line, the road just wasn't developed to handle the traffic we see now.
To correct that would cost millions. In general I've seen more people behave recklessly while driving than ever before, just over a week ago a friend of mine was nearly ran off the road by a driver on Lumber Company that obviously thought she was going too slow. After she pulled over and let him pass he ended up in front of her when she reached the red light at 515. So she snapped a picture of the tag and tried to report it but was told nothing could be done. This aort of irradic behavior must be stopped.
-4 #7 GINGER MCGUIRE 2015-06-28 10:46
+1 #8 Tara 2015-06-28 11:24
Maybe if the State Patrols would go out of the county and slow the traffic down BEFORE it gets to Pickens County instead of them, the Sheriff's Office and the City cops piling up in the same place in the middle of the county it may help a little. And as well as sitting mon-fri when ppl are going to and coming from work THAT LIVE HERE and know the speed limit, they could also sit on the weekends and slow down some out of towners. Ppl coming from south of us (I-575) don't know at 515 it changes to unrestricted access (traffic lights, side streets, etc. intersecting with the highway), it is not a limited access interstate with exit ramps.

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