Tennessee travelers urged to use caution


DAYTON — As wildfires threaten the popular tourist communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, AAA travel counselors have been working with travelers scheduled to visit the area. Anyone with travel plans into southeastern Tennessee should contact their travel agent, hotel or property management office to ensure lodging is available.

For those planning to travel into or through the areas affected by fire, stay tuned to local media for updates. Travelers should also check with local emergency management officials and adhere strictly to all evacuation orders.

“You should learn the recommended evacuation route, pack an emergency kit and let someone know your plans,” said Cindy Antrican of AAA.

Heavy smoke in the affected areas can also be dangerous for drivers. A report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety underscores the dangers to motorists caused by fog and smoke. The report includes 23 years of national data on fatal crashes involving fog and smoke and the crash data pertaining to these conditions. Perhaps the most alarming, fog and smoke appear to play a major role in fatal multi-vehicle pileups, and are listed as a factor in nearly one-in-five crashes involving 10 or more vehicles. In addition fog-involved crashes resulted in more serious injuries than crashes in clear visibility conditions.

The prevalence of smoke- and fog-related fatal crashes is highest in the overnight (midnight – 5:59 a.m.) and morning (6 – 11:59 a.m.) hours when the temperature is generally coolest and water vapors can condense into droplets – creating foggy conditions. Additionally these are times when visibility is generally already compromised due to poor lighting. The study also found the prevalence is greater in rural areas.

The study identified the following driver behaviors that contribute to the fog-related crashes:

  • Motorists perhaps feeling uncomfortable with the loss of a visual reference point in the fog – try to stay within eyeshot of the vehicles in front of them, even though doing so often requires following at an unsafe distance.
  • Drivers in the study did not have a clear perception about how far away the car in front of them actually was. In fact they perceived a lead car to be 60 percent farther away in foggy conditions than in clear conditions
  • Drivers do not tend to reduce speed in fog until their ability to stay in their travel is compromised.
  • Young novice drivers were the slowest to react to hazards, and reduced their speed the least in response to foggy conditions.

For more information about this study visit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Travelers can also check the Tennessee Department of Transportation website for the latest

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