To The Editor:
Brian Harville's article last Friday, "Another one about Hwy. 109" stayed on my mind all weekend. Brian and I view the topic from different perspectives, his from a newsroom, mine from my home less than a mile from Highway 109, but we both realize the seriousness of the problem and the need to address the question he poses, "Why is so very little being done about it?"
The day before reading the article I sat on my front porch drinking my morning coffee and listening to the common echo of sirens. I know from experience that the vehicles emitting the eerie sounds of possible tragedy are not likely transporting someone north to Sumner Regional hospital, nor to the south to UMC. At least not yet. The emergency crews are (routinely) trying to maneuver the stopped cars, pickup trucks and semis to get to the scene of a traffic accident on Hwy. 109. My friend en-route to my house from Gallatin called to say she would be late. Idling on the bridge in Gallatin, she was delayed for an hour at 8 in the morning! Another appointment coming from I-40 called to say he had turned around, explaining that by the time he could get to my house he would be late for his appointment in Franklin. I refilled my coffee and started the usual mental inventory. Who could be involved in this accident? What are my family and friends' schedules on this Thursday at 8 a.m.? I called my husband who couldn't turn onto Hwy. 109 at 7:30 a.m., so he detoured: NW Williams to Bradshaw Rd., Academy Rd. to Double Log Cabin Rd. to Hwy. 109, south of the accident. I called my son. He had also detoured to arrive on time to work. There was no need to call my other son; I knew his schedule had him far ahead of the problem - this time. We are well-versed on detour roads.
Unfortunately, last Thursday's events could be any day of the week, any time of the day and under perfectly normal weather conditions. My husband and I, eager to attend the events in Nashville on Sunday to enjoy the NHL All-Star hockey games and celebrations, pulled onto Hwy. 109 about 12:36 p.m. We had traveled less than a mile when we see it before we hear it! Stopped traffic. Sirens. Emergency lights. And a freshly smashed red pickup truck whose driver missed the que that traffic had slowed or stopped when he/she slammed into the back of another vehicle that caused, it appeared, that car to bump the vehicle in front of them. I inventoried the vehicles as we passed and said a silent, "Thank you, God" that I didn't recognize any of them. Admittedly, I was relieved that the accident was heading north, and the emergency vehicles didn't have the road blocked yet. I thought about Brian's article again. This was a clear day, a Sunday afternoon with very little traffic.
Articles I've recently read concerning this stretch of a state highway address the problem many of us face every day that live near or must travel 109 to work, school or home. Most of my family, many friends and co-workers drive this road twice per day. I'm concerned! I care! Seriously, though, can we blame the road? I've never once seen the asphalt reach up and push a car into another one. I've never witnessed the yellow lines move from right to left causing a navigation issue. What I have seen, however, are irresponsible drivers who are not watching the road, or the car in front of them, the cars in front of that car, or what's happening in the oncoming lanes nor looking occasionally in the rearview mirror. There have been three accidents on my side road in a little over a year. Two of those mishaps ended with totaled-out cars and a lot of damaged fence for me to repair. Another one ended in a DUI arrest. These drivers were less than a mile from their starting point, and all three were headed to Highway 109. No rain and no snow. If they cannot safely navigate a side road, albeit a steep and curved one, how can they safely navigate the traffic with many stops and starts on a busy highway? The answer lies in the statistics.
While we wait on our elected officials to take ownership of what matters most to their constituents as Brian points out, I have a message to the drivers: Let's take some ownership for the problem! Let's do something about it! Put away your cell phones! Teach your children the same! NEVER TEXT while driving! Keep your eyes on the road! Don't speed! Don't pass when it's illegal or unsafe! Be patient! Don't drive impaired or tired! Leave earlier than you need to so you're not rushed! Be a responsible person behind that 3-4 ton piece of machinery you are operating. Our lives depend on it! If I wake up tomorrow and have a flat tire or a dead car battery, I'll know my guardian angels delayed me getting onto Hwy. 109 for a good reason. My voting booth is a backroad before I reach Hwy. 109.