Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 10, 2012

Tidbits: Play your part to make roads safe

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — I love living in a rural area. I have had opportunities through the years to chuck this country life for the hustle and bustle of the big city and, fortunately, I never took the bait.

There’s something soothing about leaving my office in the afternoon and driving down tree-lined highways to reach my castle. It’s a small piece of earth and, yes, I can see neighbor’s homes, but it still feels quiet and peaceful. My favorite drives are in the fall when the leaves are changing and in the spring and summer when everything is fresh and green and in full bloom.

One of the perks of living in a rural area such as this is getting out into the great outdoors. I live in Tansi and, as those of you that have tried to navigate those roads know, the logistics of getting from here to over yonder can be a bit more complicated than you might think. Just because common sense tells you that this road here should intersect with that road there doesn’t mean that’s the case. I spent the first six months of my residence there looking for Topaz Dr. and was certain they were coming through during the night and moving it so I couldn’t find it the next day.

Then I got a bicycle and started learning my way around and the 10 routes you can take to get from my house to Dunbar Rd.

I also like to take my dog walking up and down and around the many roads. It’s great to get out and enjoy the fresh air and let him stretch his legs after we’ve both spent the day pent up at home or at a desk.

What isn’t so great is the traffic. It’s not the volume of the traffic that bothers me so much as the speed of that traffic. Everyone seems to be in a hurry — all the time. This includes residential areas without sidewalks or even a shoulder where cars must share the pavement not only with pedestrians and leashed pets, but also with school buses, bicyclists and others. There are areas I wouldn’t dare venture without four sides of solid steel (or fiberglass, or whatever it is they’re building cars with these days).

People drive far to fast on these rural roads. I know, time waits for no man, or woman, but if you find that you are so rushed you must go 60 mph on a small, two-lane road with limited sight visibility and no shoulder, perhaps a better solution is to reevaluate your scheduling. I have been passed driving on a road in my neighborhood by people going well above 35 mph. It makes me angry and it scares me for people that might be out enjoying an evening stroll or children playing in their yards that might run into the street after a ball.

I wish this were just an isolated incident, but the county has been hearing complaints from residents all over the county about motorists with lead feet. Back in September, the Cumberland County Commission’s environmental committee discussed establishing a uniform policy for setting speed limits in rural residential areas. The residents of the Breckenridge Lake area have been trying to find a solution for two years but there is not yet a solution. Just the other day, I had a call from a concerned citizen regarding speeding on Highland Lane, often used as a shortcut from the Homestead area to Hwy. 70 E, and the trouble it is causing homeowners there. She said a fence has been repaired numerous times after someone going too fast loses control.

State law allows counties to set a county-wide speed limit and to then change it to meet the unique needs of specific areas. For example, there are many roads where 45 to 55 mph would be completely reasonable and safe. In other areas, the safety of residents and motorists alike might be better served with a much lower speed limit.

I urge the county to get on with this. While they’re at it, additional funding to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department to aid in enforcement of speed limits would be nice. However, at the end of the day, making the roads safe for everyone requires us all to work together.

Motorists, slow down. Give yourself time to get where you’re going without driving like a madman. And if you are running late, remember that there’s no where you have to be so important you need to risk you life or the lives of others to get there.

Remember to obey traffic laws. According to the Tennessee Driver Handbook, the Basic Speed Rule, which is not a Tennessee law but a general safety principal, teaches that the speed you may drive is limited by conditions that include weather conditions, visibility, road surface and width and structure of the road, such as being narrow or with curves. Drivers should drive fast enough not to block or interfere with other vehicles moving at normal speed and speed should be adjusted to conditions so that the car can stop within a clear distance ahead. Using that information, I’d love to see someone explain how driving in excess of 45 mph is possibly safe on a road such as Big Horn Dr.

To the residents, don’t assume drivers are going to see you and stop. If you’re out running or walking near a roadway, stay aware of what’s going on around you. Be prepared to move over should a car come your way. If you’re taking an evening walk and it’s near dusk, take a flashlight and wear reflective clothing so you can be seen. If the driver can’t see you, they can’t stop. And, even if the car isn’t going extremely fast, you don’t want to pit all that metal against flesh and bone because it’s usually a losing proposition.

If you’re walking in the road and a car is approaching you, move to the shoulder or ditch. Yes, I know it’s not fun to walk in tall grass, but it’s only for a few seconds while the car goes around you.

Encourage your county commissioners to keep working on this issue and show support for our law enforcement officers helping to keep our roads safe, but let’s not forget we have a responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors to drive safely. We shouldn’t need flashing blue lights in our rear-view mirror to remind us.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.