Memphis Drivers Alert: New Report Raises Concerns About Road Safety


The report card on Tennessee’s roads is in, and while not bad, they’re nothing to sneeze at. A lack of common safety features and inadequate infrastructure pose a risk to Memphis drivers and could cost them thousands of dollars a year in repairs, according to a report from a leading civil engineering group giving our state’s roads a “C+” grade.

The 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers report looks at different types of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, waterways, aviation, parks and transit. In doing so, the organization graded based on eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. The ASCE gave Tennessee’s infrastructure an overall “C” grade, which was the same grade it received in 2009.

What the study found was that Tennessee’s 90,000 miles of roadways need things like improved lighting and additional medians to make them safer, but it also highlights issues with our roads’ limited ability to meet the capacity demands of travelers, and have poor pavement conditions that cost the state’s residents approximately $5.6 billion annually.

Neglected Roads Can Be Expensive Safety Hazards

One of the main problems with Tennessee’s 90,000 miles of roads, according to the report, is the lack of adequate safety features, such as the number of lanes, lane markings, shoulders, guardrails, and intersection design. These all can have a huge impact on safety, according to the ASCE report.

Simple adjustments like improved lighting and adding medians can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes, according to the ASCE report. Upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes can also help to produce a steady traffic flow that alleviates congestion and cuts back on the amount of time that drivers are on the road.

The condition of Tennessee roads also play a factor in safe driving for motorists. Eleven percent of Tennessee’s local roads and highways have pavement that is in very poor to poor condition, according to the ASCE. Roads that are rated in poor condition may show signs of deterioration such as potholes, cracks, and rutting.

That is important because a roadway’s features play a major role in about one-third of fatal traffic crashes. Statewide, drivers will spend more than $1.5 billion annually on additional vehicle operating costs due to lack of safety features on roadways, according to the ASCE.

Bridges Fare Better, But Still Need Some TLC

The ASCE report revealed that Tennessee’s bridges received a “B” grade, which isn’t bad, but it means they still require much needed work.

The state has about 20,000 bridges — with 5 percent classified as structurally deficient due to one or more key bridge element, such as the deck or superstructure, considered to be in poor condition, according to ASCE. Furthermore, another 2,407 bridges are deemed functionally obsolete due to these bridges not meeting current design standards. These bridges could be modernized to help increase safety and improve traffic flow, according to ASCE.

Bridge deficiencies can pose significant inconvenience and safety hazards to the general public, according to ASCE.

Bridges with a poor condition can reduce average speeds with drivers experiencing substantial delays in travel time. Narrow lanes and shoulder widths can cause congestion and even accidents, the report further says.

Below-standard vertical and horizontal clearances can cause vehicle collisions with bridges, according to the ASCE.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has take steps to alleviate these issues even with limited funding resources. The Better Bridges Program replaced or repaired 193 state-owned structurally deficient bridges, according to ASCE. TDOT has also completed six accelerated bridge construction projects to date with others planned.

However, where repair work for state-owned bridges have been stable, the money for locally owned bridges is much less than what is needed, according to ASCE. The ASCE recommends that Tennessee increase its annual funds for bridge repair and rehabilitation. Also Tennessee could support research to develop more resilient bridges to reduce structurally deficient bridges, the report says.

More Money, Fewer Problems

Tennessee’s roads don’t need to be paved in gold. They just need to be paved properly, according to the report.

According to the ASCE, it is estimated that approximately $475 million would be needed annually to maintain the current form of good repair for state roadways. In the meantime, drivers have to shell out money to fix their damaged cars along areas like Riverdale and Ross Road, according to WREG.

Potholes are doing significant damage to motorists, including one who told WREG that she spent $1,400 for work on her car’s tires, brakes, and struts, because of poor road conditions.

It seems that even though Tennessee’s highway roadways are generally well-maintained, the uncertain outlook on funding would be a detriment to the state. Tennessee could have a difficult time ahead to handle future transportation needs, which will result in declining highway conditions and crowded roadways.

The ASCE’s average grade for Tennessee highlights several issues that affect drivers substantially. A recommendation from the ASCE is that Tennessee pursue additional funding for highway safety and expansion by imposing taxes on roadways and considering alternative-fuel vehicles.

Driving on any roads could cause an accident to occur, especially when you are least expecting it. If you are involved in an accident due to the negligence of another motorist, you may be entitled to compensation. Read more to learn what our car accident attorneys in Memphis can do for you. If you are prepared to pursue a claim, please fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.