This particular road is arguably one of the most scenic drives you’ll find. However, it is also heralded as the most dangerous road in the state and, some say, in the country. U.S. Route 129, also known as the Tail of the Dragon, in Blount County, has 318 curves in an 11-mile stretch.
The Tail of the Dragon has hundreds of long blind crests, blind curves and high degrees of camber, which can make it more difficult to successfully take a turn. The curves even have names, such as Copperhead Corner, Gravity Cavity and Hog Pen Bend. There is also the Tree of Shame, which is where parts from motorcycles that have crashed are adorned on the tree as a reminder of the road’s dangers.
While this road is certainly breathtaking because it’s bordered by a dense forest area and the Great Smoky Mountains, there are few stops along the way and no exits. This means crash victims or those who become stranded on the Dragon’s Tail may have to wait a while to receive help. Moreover, the weather is unpredictable in this area, especially in November through March. Extreme and fast-changing weather conditions make it particularly risky for drivers.
What is the State Doing to Make the Tail of the Dragon Safer?
At least one death per year occurs on the Tail of the Dragon. However, the number of deaths each year have decreased since 1992, when the speed limit was first lowered. Since then, the speed limit has been lowered twice more, bottoming out at 30 miles per hour.
Police in the area have also stepped up enforcement on the road dramatically. The Blount County Sherriff Department has set up plain wrappers, road blocks to check for valid licenses, unmarked cars, speed clocking and heavy enforcement times.
Additionally, the state banned commercial trucks from using this road because tractor trailers take up both lanes on curves. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) also installed earthen berms to prevent bikes from falling down steep drop-offs. Many pull-offs were paved and more signage was installed.
While the Tail of the Dragon has become more of a tourist attraction for those who want to see the scenery and thrill-seekers, it is still a dangerous area. Drivers who dare travel on it must be extra cautious, reduce speed and obey all the laws.
“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Luke 9:57