Georgia DOT cutting down trees to make Interstate 95 safer

Over the past 3 years, trees have contributed to 472 traffic fatalities

WOODBINE, Ga. – If you hop on Interstate 95 and drive through Georgia anytime soon, chances are you’ll notice fewer trees hugging the side of the road.

That’s because the Georgia Department of Transportation is taking steps to remove trees that grow along I-95 in the hopes of cutting down on the number of traffic fatalities on the highway.

The agency embarked on its vegetation management program two years ago to remove trees, which contribute to a significant number of crashes, and also to make re-entry easier during storm recovery.

Data provided by the Department of Transportation show that 51 percent of traffic fatalities that happen in Georgia each year involve a vehicle striking a stationary object, like a bridge or tree.

In fact, over the past three years, the department has recorded more than 472 fatalities that began with a vehicle striking a tree. And trees contributed to more than 3,000 crashes with serious injuries.

So drivers cruising along I-95 near Woodbine might see heavy machinery in the median and trees being cut down and lying on the ground as they wait for crews to remove them.

Kathy Wardell, who lives in Savannah, said wooded areas are so close to the highway in some places that if a driver is forced to veer off the road, they’re almost bound to run into a tree.

“If you are having to swerve to avoid something, if you go off the road and you’ve only got a few seconds to recover -- trees that are right there, you’re going to hit them,” Wardell said.

As part of the vegetation management, the department plans to plant trees at least 100 feet away from the edge of the road in certain areas in an effort to allow drivers to stop safely if they leave the road.

The project is expected to be completed sometime next year.

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