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Concern over accidents at Twin Mountain Lakes

 

Railroad crossing on Twin Mountain Lake Road near the water, where a driver ran off the left side of the road last December and nosed into a deep ditch against the railroad embankment.

 

Twin Mountain Lake Road resident Christy Young phoned the Progress office Tuesday, Dec. 13. As she talked on the phone, she was watching a wrecker haul a crashed vehicle back into the road near her home, she said.

A Chevrolet Blazer had drifted out of a curve as it approached a railroad crossing headed downhill. The vehicle hit the ditch on the near side of the rails and stuck. A wrecker was called to pull it out.

Speed was involved in the accident, Young said. It was not the first such accident she had seen around there, she said. A previous one occurred near the same place, Young said. A truck that time.

"Flying," she said. "Couldn't make the curve, hit a tree and not the lake."

Young said speeders are a problem on her road. "There's a sign at the top of the road telling the speed limit, but they don't seem to care," she said, meaning motorists who ignore the limit: 20 miles per hour. She had previously contacted the Sheriff's Office to ask for speed enforcement on her road, Young said.

 

"We don't have resources to come out and sit," she said she was told. "I've even offered to have them come out and sit in my yard. I'd be willing to have anything to save somebody. It's a dangerous road here lately."

The Progress looked into it, gaining accident reports for the area from the Georgia State Patrol. A winding road hugs most of the perimeter of the two lakes that are Twin Mountain Lakes. Three other roads meet the perimeter road at different spots, giving access to the lakeshore road.

A total of seven accident reports, dating back to 2005, indicate one accident per year until 2011. During 2011, an accident happened in July, followed by the December accident Young reported to the Progress. Accidents were not confined to a particular place or intersection but happened on the perimeter road and on feeder roads.

Of the seven traffic accidents recorded by the State Patrol, four involved drivers impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication. Reports for the other three accidents (one involving a school bus) listed the narrowness of the road as a contributing factor.

At their origin about a half century ago, the Twin Mountain Lakes were developed as a rural fishing destination. The lakeshore was divided into small lots suitable for campsites. A single-lane gravel road, the perimeter road, gave access. Later, campsites gave way to cabins and houses. More recently, the perimeter road was paved. But it remains essentially a single-lane road accommodating two-way traffic.

A single-lane gravel track road offers some encouragement to drive slowly and cheat toward the ditch when you meet opposing traffic. Lay down some pavement on such a road, though, and traffic speed tends to increase. Drivers seem to forget in cases like this that the track is no wider than it was, still barely capable of squeezing two vehicles beside each other when they meet.

The three accident reports the Progress received concerning vehicle collisions tied to the narrowness of the roadway around Twin Mountain Lakes listed the width of the road at each accident place. In one accident, the road was 12 feet wide. In a second, the road was 13 and a half feet wide. Bear in mind the Georgia Department of Transportation defines a single lane as 11 feet wide.

In the third accident, a school bus sweeping around the outside of a tight curve clipped a car moving in the opposite direction. The left rear quarter panel of the bus struck the left rear quarter panel of the car.

The road width at that collision place was 14 feet, 2 inches. Aware of each other and moving slowly enough, the two vehicles might have met without scraping. But the accident happened at a tight blind curve, where the two vehicles were likely on each other with scant warning.

A north shore lakeside resident expressed surprise the Twin Mountain Lakes neighborhood could tally enough traffic or vehicle collisions to warrant a newspaper story.

"What traffic?" she asked. On a Sunday afternoon, cars passed but seldom. Some drivers do speed, she allowed. And she remembered the bus-car collision that happened close by.

When the Progress told Pickens County Sheriff Donnie Craig that Christy Young reported phoning his office to seek improved speed enforcement around the lakes, Craig allowed it was the first he had heard of it. After checking with his staff, Craig phoned back to the Progress office.

"I've talked to my chief [deputy] and Lieutenant Grace that's over uniform patrol," the sheriff said, "but nobody's heard of any complaints. We’re aware of some wrecks but not aware that there was an issue."

Craig said the sheriff's office presently has no permit to use radar for speed control on roads near Twin Mountain Lakes. The state must send an inspector to survey a road, check the grade, traffic and other factors before a permit can be issued to county or municipal law enforcement to use radar on a road, he explained.

"Because of the hills and the narrowness [of roads around the lakes], we probably couldn't be permitted to run radar in there," Craig said. "Honestly, with some of the regulations, I don't think we could be permitted for that little area there."

Craig said he would ask the Georgia State Patrol about using its radar equipment for speed control in that area. State law enforcement needs no permit to use radar, he explained.

His own officers can do road checks around the lakes, Craig said. That would be occasional road blocks to check drivers for a legal drivers license, proof of vehicle insurance and to discover impaired drivers. "If you're drinking or doing something [illegal drugs or a controlled substance], don't be on the road," Sheriff Craig advised.

The sheriff's office can also increase the frequency of drive-through patrols in the lakefront community, Craig added. "Be seen in the area a little more," he clarified. "That would maybe slow some folks down."

As to lowering the speed limit around the lakes, Craig said County Commissioner Robert Jones is authorized to make that change. Where the sheriff and commissioner agree a problem exists and lowering the speed limit could help, Jones can make that happen, Craig said. The sheriff advises county residents with road safety concerns to contact him directly.

“If people are concerned, I encourage them to call me here [at the Pickens County Sheriff's Office],” Craig said. “If I'm not aware of it, it's hard to do anything. Any case like that, where it's about patrol safety, speed limits or accidents, I welcome the input.”

“The buck stops here,” he said. “If there's a problem, hopefully we can help them resolve it.”

Comments   

Thomas Raye
+2 #1 Thomas Raye 2012-02-01 14:28
I live on Twin Mtn. Lake Circle my son was hit by car driving to fast it totaled out his neon the girl never received a ticket for speeding from our sheriff dept or the trooper who came to the accident in the accident report we got it clearly showed the girl was on the wrong side of the road,here is a suggestion make it a one way road
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Liz Cornett
+2 #2 Liz Cornett 2012-02-01 16:09
There are many areas in our county that need to be reviewed when it comes to accidents. Hwy 53 between Old Philly Road and HCES has many, too many accidents each year. The speed limit could be lowered and gaurd rails installed, in areas where there is nothing but a sizeable drop off from the road. Also, in my opinion a traffic light needs to be installed on 53 in front of HCES. Parents & employees come zipping in and out of that school in the a.m. and p.m., with complete dis-regard for traffic on 53. They just pull out without looking to see if it is safe to do so, and one day, mark my words, someone is going to get into an awlful wreck there. The traffic light could be used during a.m. and p.m. pick up drop off times.
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melissa gillette
+2 #3 melissa gillette 2012-02-01 21:21
Heck Liz it would just be nice if people followed the speed limit during school zone hours. It never fails, whenever I am driving past when the lights are flashing someone always speeds past me. People think the speed limit does not apply to them. If you are in hurry, next time try leaving a few minutes early that way you won't run down some kid on their way to school because you think you can speed past the school.
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TML Resident
+1 #4 TML Resident 2012-02-02 04:55
I am a resident of twin mountain lake cir. lowering the speed limit will not help. no one pays attention to it anyways. First thing that needs to be done is a clean up of the drugs in the neighborhood. I agree making it a one way road may be inconventional but would make it alot safer and probably the best bet. And last parents need to teach their kids not to play in the road. I drive slow on the road but I dont know how many times I have almost hit a kid, while going at a crawl of a pace and a kid runs in to the road. I have kids but I teach the to not play in the road and get out of the way of cars!
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Wendy Finney
+1 #5 Wendy Finney 2012-02-02 17:18
The intersection where Twin Mountain Lakes Road and Gennett Drive run into Lumber Company Road is also extremely dangerous. Even though the speed limit on Lumber Company Road is marked at 25 MPH in that area, people routinely drive on it at 40+ MPH. Because the intersection is at the crest of a hill coming out of a blind curve on the west/northwest side of Lumber Company Road, sight distance for anyone turning onto Lumber Company from either Twin Mountain Lakes or Gennett is very short. A driver turning from the side roads may not see anyone on Lumber Company, but get clipped halfway out by a speeder on LC who literally wasn't in view when the turn was begun. I'm amazed there aren't more wrecks there, because Lumber Company is fairly heavily traveled.
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Matt Coleman
+1 #6 Matt Coleman 2012-02-03 14:22
I live near the intersection of Twin Mountain Lakes and Lumber Company road and everything Wendy says is true. The traffic regularly exceeds 45 mph and I have observed people blow their horn to bully drivers attempting to turn from TML Road onto Lumber Company road to wait until they are past. I don't think much will be done to fix the situation with the current economy for Pickens. We are lucky the roads are paved.
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