Community says GPS leads tourists down dangerous road to Gatlinburg

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — A group of people who live in the mountain community of Cosby are worried about the safety of tourists who venture off Interstate 40 onto their narrow roadways.

GPS apps usually direct drivers on the shortest route to a destination, but the shortest way to Gatlinburg off Exit 447 on I-40, can be dangerous.

Community leaders in the area shared their plan to take concerns to the county. They say they’ll be speaking Tuesday night before the Cocke County Road Commission to ask commissioners for new safety measures on some roads just beyond the Hartford exit where white water rafting businesses are located.

They especially want the highway superintendent to contact GPS services and request “warnings” be placed on some roads in the Cosby community.

Lindsey Gap Road, a narrow road about 25 miles from Gatlinburg, is very busy on weekends, or anytime of the year; because while traveling westbound on I-40 headed toward Gatlinburg, Google Maps and other GPS apps show the fastest way is off exit 447, that’s Hartford Road, onto Lindsey Gap Road — where drivers have to negotiate a sharp turn.

It’s a dangerous and tricky turn across a one lane bridge that catches drivers, many from out of state, by surprise.

People who live along Lindsey Gap Road are concerned about their safety and the tourists who are unaware of the danger.

“On late Thursday nights into Friday, they start coming through to Gatlinburg,” Peggy McGaha, a local resident, said. “They can come through to anywhere from 15 to 20 cars at a time every 10 to 15 minutes. Someone is going to get hurt. Thankfully no has yet, but they’re going to.”

Recently a traffic sign warning drivers about the bridge was installed by the county. But another warning sign meant for truckers can be difficult to read — since it’s upside down. And trucks have ended up in the creek.

“We have sharp ditches as you can see on both sides of the road here. We have narrow one-lane bridges that people don’t understand they have to alternate traffic,” local resident Charlie Grooms said. “We have no yellow lines on the road to direct traffic, to help people maintain their lane of traffic. We need a lot of help out here.”

Charlie Grooms has a list of suggestions he’ll present to the Cocke County Road Commission. Local residents want more signs like this one warning drivers heading to Gatlinburg not to depend on their GPS.

“I would like our leaders to contact some of the Global Positioning Systems, some of the platforms, such as WAZE. I have notified them by email. I can’t request a change be made. But they do tell me some of the governmental officials can impose some restrictions on these roads,” Grooms said.

GPS also directs traffic onto Trail Hollow another narrow road that leads to Gatlinburg.

“You have nowhere to pass. If you meet anything, you have to back up. Or get out and explain what they need to do because they don’t know where to go,” local resident Freda Gibson said.

“First of all GPS needs to tag Lindsey Gap Road as a dangerous, one-lane residential road only. There is nothing on there to warn the people,” local resident Peggy McGaha said.

Until action is taken by Cocke County, those who live along these narrow country roads worry.

“We simply want our community to be safe. We want our children to be safe. We want these tourists who are passing through to be safe,” Grooms said.

We spoke with Cocke County highway superintendent Dwayne McCalister on Tuesday. He said once he receives directions form the road commission, he’ll do whatever he can to make improvements that are with the county budget. McCalister also said he has talked with GPS navigation companies in the past, but they have yet to make the changes local residents have suggested.

Some of the people living off Lindsey Gap Road often jokingly refer to GPS as an acronym meaning, “Gets People Stuck,” and until there are changes to the system, it is likely that more travelers will get stuck and locals will have to deal with the traffic.

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