Increasing patrol along the Natchez Trace Parkway

(WJTV) — Accidents along the Natchez Trace Parkway are rising at a deadly rate, and most of them are happening right here in the Jackson and Ridgeland area.

State park rangers are teaming up with local law enforcement agencies to target reckless drivers.

“It’s a very beautiful route but unfortunately a particular section between I-55 and 51 we refer to that as sort of the gauntlet,” Mark Moser, an avid bicyclist said.

What began as a state park byway shared with bicyclists and visitors has now become a raceway for drivers rushing to get from one place to the next.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase. We had a period where we only experienced one fatality a year. However, in the last three years we’re averaging about 10 fatalities a year, so something has dramatically changed,” Chief Ranger, Sarah Davis said.

Sarah Davis says because of the high number of wrecks drivers will see a much larger law enforcement presence between I-55 and I-20 on the Trace.

They’re looking for speeders, unlicensed drivers, people not wearing their seat belts, and drivers who don’t have insurance.

“We just want to remind people this is a national park. It’s part of the national park system. It’s the same thing as a Yellowstone or Yosemite or the Grand Canyon people come here for recreation,” Davis said.

Davis said the last time they did saturation patrol they saw speeding drop 5 to 10 miles an hour, but after a while, it picked back up.

Avid cyclist Mark Moser hopes this time drivers will be more cautious.

“Sometimes it’s speeders who will lay on their horn as they pass. Sometimes it’s distracted drivers that are staring at their phones. Sometimes it’s weekenders that are heading back from the beach, and you don’t know what kind of state they’re in.”

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