While the locals may know to steer clear of certain roads, if you’re a visitor to Tennessee who is unfamiliar with the area, chances are you don’t. There is a reason certain roads have nicknames like “Deadman’s Curve,” and Tennessee has plenty of deadly roads with their own nicknames.
Nashville is currently experiencing an increase in auto accidents with more than 36,000 reported cases in 2018, dramatically more than compared to the previous year. In 2019, there was an increase of 8.2 percent of traffic fatalities statewide from the previous years. One of the roads in Tennessee is considered one of the most dangerous, not only in the state but in the entire country.
Tail of the Dragon
The Tail of the Dragon runs from Tennessee to North Carolina. In its 11-mile span, the road has 318 turns, which makes it very popular among motorcyclists and thrill seekers. There are no exits, so once you get on the road, you cannot get off until it ends.
On one side of the Tail of the Dragon is the Great Smoky Mountains, and the other is Cherokee National Forest. Not only does it have many turns, steep drop-offs on the side of the road are very common. The weather on the Tail of the Dragon is also unpredictable adding to the danger. Since 2011, the road has killed more than 20 people.
One of the ways the state has attempted to make the road safer is by increasing patrols to stop reckless driving and speeding. However, it is just as dangerous for law enforcement, which means it is difficult for them to stop people who are driving too fast as it is not safe for them to pursue them at high speeds. Big-rig trucks have been banned on the road, a law that was passed in 2015 to save lives.
Many of the accidents that occur on the Tale of the Dragon are caused by driver error. The most common mistakes drivers make include:
- Crossing the center line
- Misjudging straightaways
- Running out of gas
- Taking curves too quickly
- Unfamiliar with the road
Tree of Shame
The Tail of the Dragon is so dangerous that, in the 1980s, a group of motorcycle riders began the “Tree of Shame,” which consisted of parts from motorcycles who crashed on the road on a tree at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, the only place to get gas on the road.
There is a sign that reads “No Gain and a lot of PAIN!” to warn drivers of the need to use caution. There are so many motorcycle parts on the tree that Deals Gap now asks people to bring the parts to them rather than add them to the tree.
What to Do If You Are Injured
If you are involved in an accident on the Tail of the Dragon and suffer an injury, call 911 immediately. The road can be dark and it is not unusual for drivers to not see an accident until they are right on it. Too often, that leads to additional vehicles involved and more injuries.
If you run out of gas, there is really no place to pull over and you risk being hit by another motorist as well. If you plan to travel on the road, it is recommended that you carry flares or reflective markers to make you visible to other drivers should you be involved in an accident or run out of gas.
It is important to understand that the road is rather secluded, and it could take as much as an hour for help to arrive. The best advice is to drive carefully should you end up on this dangerous but beautiful stretch of road.