MACON, Ga. — Some people driving on the I-16/I-75 split, describe it as a nightmare.
Between speeders, traffic jams, and erratic driving — bad accidents linger in a driver's minds as the constant road work continues.
In 2016 the Georgia Department of Transportation started the massive construction project to make traffic and safety improvements, but has the construction caused more wrecks?
Typically it's a worry free drive around the streets of Macon for Chris Smith. Around the I-16/I-75 split, it's a different story.
"Five or six other people ahead of me wound up getting into accidents as a direct result of this guy cutting everybody off," Smith said.
Three years ago, Smith was involved in a car crash along I-75 North headed toward the split.
"We all lost control and wound up wrecking, and piling up in the ditch over there basically," Smith said.
He says everyone came out unscathed, but now he avoids the interchange all together.
"It's made me start taking riverside a lot more, instead of getting on the interstate right there," Smith said.
The interchange construction is a part of six phase Georgia Department of Transportation project.
Work began in 2016 with projects in neighborhoods aimed at reducing the impact of the changes.
Work on the highway began in 2017.
"That interchange, I mean it's known state-wide where there's a lot of accidents," Brad Wolfe with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office Patrol Division said. "Prior to construction we were out there a pretty good bit working accidents and trying to clear traffic from accidents."
He says most of the accidents they see stem from minor traffic violations.
"People are either trying to change lanes at the last minute, making an improper lane change where they've gone beyond where they need to be to change lanes," Wolfe said. "Maybe distracted driving because there's a lot of rear end accidents where there's backed up traffic, so there's probably some distraction involved."
The state started this project to reduce congestion and improve safety. With accidents still happening, it raises the question, has construction brought more accidents to the heart of Georgia?
The best way to tell is by looking at the numbers. This is table above is from the Georgia Department of Transportation. You can see a spike here where crashes went up once construction began, but then the number of injuries and accidents dropped slightly in the second year.
Penny Brooks with GDOT says that's probably because people were getting used to the project and the change it brought with it.
She says 2019 looks to be on track for numbers to go down more.
"People know okay, the work zone is big, it covers a great deal of Macon-Bibb County. I really have to plan where I'm going. I have to watch all the lanes. I have to make sure that I'm a good distance from all the trucks," Brooks said.
Once the new lanes open up on the interchange, Brooks says the drive will get easier.
"In the meantime, we can kind of be happy to know that people are driving more carefully as a result of the work zones," Brooks said.
Construction or no construction, Smith is taking back roads.
"When I can I avoid taking the interstate on that particular stretch," he said.
This construction project isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The interchange improvements are estimated to go on for six more years.
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