BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — When fall comes to East Tennessee, it often brings visitors to a particular stretch of road nicknamed "The Dragon." This windy, hilly piece of U.S. Highway 129 is also often the site of serious crashes and incidents involving reckless driving.
Since January 1, 2022, the Blount County Sheriff's Office said there have been 93 crashes reported on the road. Forty-two of those crashes resulted in 57 people getting injured, as well as two fatalities.
To prevent future crashes, BCSO said they were planning to increase the number of deputies patrolling The Dragon over the fall. Starting on October 1, they said they would use grant money from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office to help fund the increased patrols.
“The Dragon is a beautiful area of Blount County,” said Sheriff James Berrong. “We want people to enjoy the natural beauty and serene surroundings, but it is our goal to keep everyone safe while traveling. The last thing we want to hear is a dispatch to the Dragon for an accident with injuries or fatalities. That is a bad day for everyone involved.”
The posted speed limit for the road is 30 mph, and BCSO said drivers should slow down even more when driving through a curve where they may not be able to see oncoming traffic. Despite this, deputies said they have seen more motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts from around the world driving the dangerous road.
It has 318 curves, and deputies said many drivers plow through them recklessly by speeding and crossing the center line on blind curves.
It's located in a rural area, and the nearest ambulance service is 45 minutes away, they said. Once an ambulance arrives at a location on The Dragon, it can take another 45 minutes to reach a hospital for minor injuries, or more than an hour to reach a hospital with a trauma center.
“Over the past few years, the number of crashes on the Dragon declined, but this year we’ve witnessed the number of crashes due to reckless driving going up, and far too many people have been injured or killed in those accidents,” Sheriff Berrong said. “Too many people are driving with no respect for the law on the Dragon, endangering their own lives, but more importantly, putting other drivers in danger due to their recklessness.”