CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. - Some people living in Carroll County say they are sick and tired of the wrecks happening on Interstate 20. They say since a construction project started, to replace the pavement, they've seen a drastic jump in deadly crashes.
The Georgia Department of Transportation pulled the numbers and since the construction began, just more than 18 months ago, there have been eight deadly wrecks killing a total of nine people. Now the department is pausing their road work, to try and make this stretch of interstate safer.
It's a 13-mile stretch of I-20 through Carroll County, and it's tough to miss the memorials on the side of the road from deadly wrecks over the years.
Willie Thornton lives in Bremen and tries to avoid driving near I-20 when he can. "It's alarming. It makes people worried about traveling I-20," Willie shares.
In August of 2016, the DOT began construction to update the crumbling concrete. It's an expansive project covering both directions and requiring at times narrow lanes, reduced shoulders, lane closures and lane shifts. "We definitely have heard from the community that they are uncomfortable going through that construction zone, that it gives them pause. They just get a little bit of anxiety with what is going on out there," says Georgia DOT Spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
The DOT says the first year of the project was unfortunately, a deadly one. "In about a 12-13 month span, we did have 8 fatalities in this area of I-20," Dale explains. "We do take those seriously when we see a bit of a spike in fatalities. We go and we look to see if there's a common thread and if it's something that's work zone related, if there's something we can do as a department to make changes in that area, to make it safer."
The DOT sites distracted driving, failure to maintain lane, DUI's, and speed for most of the wrecks. However, rear end collisions are listed as the cause of 5 of the 8 wrecks. "So if there was a slow down ahead of you or there was a lane shift that people were slowing down to complete, people weren't paying attention and people in the back of that queue were running into people who were stopped or were slowed down. So again, distracted driving especially in a work zone can be very deadly," adds Dale.
Another contributing factor is the limited shoulders. The majority of the deadly wrecks also involved tractor trailers.
"So many transfer trucks, so many 18 wheelers," Willie describes. "There's just nowhere to go if you get over too far, there's just nowhere to go."
So to help, the DOT is pausing their concrete replacement to give drivers more space. "We're going to put a little hold on the project right now the next step of the project to get some safety shoulders out there, two foot shoulders to give a little more comfort to motorists," adds Dale.
Willie is grateful for the added safety, but says it really comes down to the drivers. "I think the drivers are going to have to be more cautious. Slow down and pay attention to where they're going, cause this is a crazy area," Willie says.
One of the 9 fatalities was a construction worker, who was painting a bridge when he was struck and killed by a distracted driver.
This project is estimated to go through 2019 and will cost more than $80-million dollars.
According to the numbers from DOT, wrecks along this section of i-20 didn't start happening with the construction, another 8 people were killed in the 2.5 years before the project began.