UPDATE: City adds warning signs to Lower Mill Road - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: City adds warning signs to Lower Mill Road

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Accidents on Lower Mill Road have increased over the years. WRCBtv.com photo Accidents on Lower Mill Road have increased over the years. WRCBtv.com photo
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: After three deaths in three years on Lower Mill Road, the city is taking steps to ensure driver safety.

Workers with the city traffic engineer's office installed new signs Friday morning warning of a curve in the road where two of the fatalities have occurred.

Channel 3 featured the safety improvements in a story Thursday evening.


PREVIOUS STORY: The City of Chattanooga is looking to fix a dangerous road that's been the spot of three deaths in three years.

If you take a cruise down Hixson's Lower Mill Road, you'll notice constant curves and a couple crosses. The makeshift memorials remind drivers the dangers of the curves that have claimed three lives in three years.

Most recently, 15-year-old Alec Johnson was killed riding in a car on his way to Hixson High School. The driver, a 16-year-old girl, was just recently released from Erlanger.

“We seem to be having a problem with students,” said Chattanooga Police Lieutenant David Gibb. “The crashes that we are having seem to be with our youth.”

Lt. Gibb oversees the police department's traffic division and says Lower Mill Road is not a heavily-traveled road. The 2.5-mile stretch of road is mostly used as a neighborhood shortcut or by  students going to school.

The city's assistant transportation engineer estimates the road has double the wrecks a road with that volume should.

“This curve does have a higher number than we expect,” said Asst. Transportation Engineer Ben Taylor.

Taylor said they began studying the road after Alec died in a crash likely caused by speed. But he said loose gravel from a nearby driveway could have also contributed to the fatal wreck. Now the city is focusing its efforts on that curve, acknowledging more can be done to prevent accidents.

Currently, a bright yellow sign warns drivers to take the curve at a reduced 25 mph speed but it only faces westbound traffic. Taylor said every accident in that one curve has happened with cars driving eastbound.

Starting this week, the city will begin installing new signs warning of the curve where Alec died. Additionally, the city will be fixing loose gravel in a neighboring driveway that washes out into the street, creating dangerous conditions for drivers. In December, the city will also install rumble strips in the eastbound lanes, creating a vibrating and audible alert to slow down.

Police will step up enforcement and speed cameras are possible.

“If the conditions are right on Lower Mill, we will consider putting cameras there as well. That's just a technique. I know a lot of people aren't thrilled with it but it does change driver behavior,” Taylor said.

Taylor points to the Hixson Pike S-Curves as a success story. The road, once notorious for accidents, hasn't had a fatal crash since speed cameras were installed in 2007. The city also placed a guardrail on the S-Curves after a single-car crash in 2000 killed four people.

"I've been doing this for 22 years and photo enforcement is the one tool that has completely changed driver behavior on the S-Curves," Taylor said.

Speed cameras were enough for the S-Curves.

But what is enough for Lower Mill Road?

“You know, who knows what's enough?” Lt. Gibb asks. “Drivers, if they're not paying attention to the road, that's an issue we have to work on in another area but as far as the road is concerned, I believe it will be enough.”

TIMELINE FOR LOWER MILL ROAD:

  1. Friday, Nov. 21: The city is scheduled to place new signs warning of the curve in the eastbound direction. There have been six accidents and two fatalities at that curve since 2010.
  2. Weather permitting: The city is paying to fix a neighbor's driveway at sits on the edge of that dangerous curve. Currently, gravel from the driveway washes into the road.
  3. December: Several audible and vibrating rumble strips will be installed with the intent to alert drivers to their speed as they approach the curve.
  4. Periodically: Drivers on Lower Mill Road may see more police shooting radar and writing tickets to speeders.
  5. Possibly: The city has not ruled out the possibility for installing speed cameras.
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