Natchez Trace deaths from driving off side of road doubles national average; Park service proposes to change that

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Natchez Trace Parkway is considering the addition of rumble strips to sections of the Trace in Mississippi and Tennessee as a way to reduce fatal accidents on the parkway.

The fatality rate from lane departure crashes along the Parkway almost doubles the national average of 52%.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is seeking public comments through Dec. 20 on a proposal to install audible pavement markings 1 in Colbert and Lauderdale counties in Alabama, and in Prentiss and Tishomingo counties in Mississippi. Research suggests audible pavement markings reduce accidents.

The Federal Highway Administration and Parkway staff are considering the installation of raised pavement markers or rumble strips along the centerline and both edges of the Parkway.

From 2014 to 2018, lane departures account for 91% of motor vehicle fatalities along the Parkway, according to a National Park Service news release. Over that 4-year period, 39 crashes resulted in 46 deaths.

“Lane departure is the dominant traffic safety concern for the Parkway,” Central District Law Enforcement Ranger John Hearne said.

Although the public has suggested constructing a road shoulder or bike lane to improve safety, it is not a feasible alternative for the Parkway due to significant environmental impacts to natural resources, prohibitive costs, and adverse impacts to the protected design intent of the cultural landscape.

“Engineering controls, such as the proposed rumble strips, will help avert drivers when they veer toward the edge or centerline. Research suggests these markings will reduce the number of serious crashes along the Parkway,” Hearne said.

Public comments can be submitted electronically via the National Park Service’s Planning, Environmental, and Public Comment (PEPC) website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/parkwaysafety