Rough Roads Ahead

Coy Kirkland

Due to Interstate-16 playing an integral role in the transportation of many students and residents of Statesboro, many people have formed their own opinion about the busy interstate.

With the busy roadway serving as a lifeline for students to reach home and many parts of the state, many students are well acquainted with the highway. Due to recent media attention and rising notoriety, students have become more aware of the danger and growing reputation of the busy road.

With I-16 showing up more and more in the public’s eye and Governor Nathan Deal having to respond to recent fatalities with promises of construction to improve the safety of the state residents, students are forming their own perception of the growing infamy of the highway.

One interesting trend that shows from asking students campus about their level of safety when traveling on Interstate I-16 is the near consistency of hearing about the danger level of the major road. Despite hearing these claims students often feel safe or have no problem with the road personally.

Fatalities on the Road

When looking at solely the total amount of fatalities per road Interstate-75 leads the list with 61 fatalities in 2015 according to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). Following I-75, Interstate-20 had a total of 34 fatalities according to GDOT. Serving as the median of the list comes highway I-16 with 28 fatalities.

Although this data may lead you assuming that I-16 is a relatively average major road when it comes to safety. There is a slight shift in the data whenever you compare the fatality is to the total amount of road that people travel on. This assumption about the safety of I-75 may be influenced when one realizes that I-75 is the second shortest highway in the state.

When comparing the rate of fatalities per mile the most recent data collected in 2015, the data shows I-16 is not the most dangerous highway in the state but is rather tied for second with I-20 when it comes to deaths per mile, according to GDOT.

I-16 and I-20 both have a ratio of one death per six miles which is near twice the amount of Interstate-285. These roads follow behind I-85, which leads this list with one fatality per 6.6 miles. I-75 which runs north to south and has nearly twice the length of I-16 demonstrated a ratio of one death per 5.5 miles.

Student Experiences

I-16, which also serves as an evacuation route in the event of a hurricane, is a 116.8-mile route that stretches from Macon to Savannah providing many Georgia Southern students the ability to reach areas around Statesboro or even to visit home.

One student Andrious Nelson, freshman mechanical engineering major, drives every two to three weeks taking a route that consists of traveling on multiple major roads including I-16W and Interstate I-75N.

On his trip to Henry County, Nelson states that throughout his travels he fears I-75 more due to the increased speed of travelers and the number of lanes. He believes that the increased amount of people makes it feel like they are faster, adding to his uneasiness on I-16.

Where I-16 does lead is the staggering amount of fatalities attributed to deaths by tractor trailers or otherwise referred to as heavy traffic. With 18 tractor-trailer deaths attributed to its name, I-16 is leading the state with I-75 following behind with nearly 10 tractor-trailer deaths. In addition, this number is projected to climb with the addition of a new port being created in Savannah, according to GDOT. This may lead to increased heavy traffic in the area due to the increased amount of importation.

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When it comes to witnessing one of these incidents that give the road such an infamous name one student, Brandon Sellers, senior psychology major, has had a hands-on experience with the more dangerous side of the argument.

Although he is very cautious, stating how he grows more cautious when it comes to the stretch between Statesboro and Savannah, because he has seen and heard of so many accidents happening on [I-16].

“I feel just as safe on it as I would any other major interstate but, it’s got a history and that’s worth taking into account,” Sellers said.

Sellers also shared a story in which he witnessed a truck driving along side him randomly caught fire.

Despite stories such as the one provided by Brandon Sellers, Georgia Southern students such as Carlie Sheppard, sophomore biology major, occasionally drive on I-16 view the route as a decent route without any worries.

Jasmine Sparks, sophomore psychology major, also treats the road like any other interstate or major highway stating that she usually felt safe on the highway despite feeling slightly nervous due to people speeding past her.

GDOT Expansion

Due to the public’s increased scrutiny towards the major road, GDOT has recently released plans to start construction as early as 2019 and expecting to finish around 2021 as shown by the project description provided by GDOT. With the construction of 19 miles of extended lane-miles by widening lanes from four to six lanes and the reworking of the I-16 and I-95 interchange should increase heavy traffic mobility around the Savannah area and improve safety on the interstate. More information regarding these projects can be found here.

With I-16 being an integral part of students lifestyles and day to day operations, it will be interesting to observe the changes and modifications the state issues to improve the safety of the commuters and in turn the students. Maybe when the improvements are installed we will see student opinions will shift in favor of the interstate.