Photo courtesy W.Va. DNR

West Virginia Division of Highways welcomes holiday travelers; reminds drivers to look twice for motorcycles

CHARLESTON, WV – As motorcyclists and motorists prepare to take advantage of West Virginia’s newest scenic byway – the newly christened Seneca Skyway – the West Virginia Division of Highways is greeting travelers this Memorial Day weekend with safety reminders for all.

The Seneca Skyway, a nearly 300-mile scenic loop on US 219 and WV 92 from Lewisburg through the Potomac Highlands and some of West Virginia’s most beautiful scenery, was officially dedicated in May 2022, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. It is the first of four scenic routes under the new West Virginia Mountain Rides program. The program is a collaborative partnership between the West Virginia Department of Tourism and the West Virginia Department of Transportation to designate and promote the state’s most scenic country roads.

“Six years ago, could you have imagined us in West Virginia saying we were going to market and promote our roads? We all know how beautiful our state is,” said Gov. Jim Justice. “But we were struggling to find a way to the convenience store because our roads were torn to pieces.”

Faced with decades of underfunded road maintenance, Gov. Justice rolled out his $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program in 2017. It was the most ambitious highway program in state history. With over 1,000 projects completed to date, and projects continuing in all parts of the state this summer, WVDOH reminds motorists to be aware in work zones.

With an increase in holiday traffic, WVDOH is reaching out to the public, asking drivers to remain aware — from work zones to scenic routes.

West Virginia Department of Transportation Traffic Engineering Division said AAA predicts 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend.

Jeff Miller, executive director of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, said an estimated 610,000 vehicles are expected to use the West Virginia Turnpike between Thursday, May 26, 2022, and Monday, May 30, 2022. That’s about 30 percent more vehicles than on a typical travel day.

In West Virginia, there were 38 motorcyclist fatalities in 2020, up from 28 in 2019.

That same year saw 267 total traffic fatalities on West Virginia roads, including 177 passengers.

West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E. has set a goal of zero deaths on West Virginia highways this season.

Drivers need to understand that a motorcycle rider has different safety challenges on the roadway because of the motorcycle’s size, visibility, and riding practices like downshifting and weaving to be able to anticipate and respond to motorcyclists’ behavior. Motorcycles are among the most vulnerable vehicles on the road, putting riders at greater risk of death and serious injury in a crash.

Due to a motorcycle’s smaller profile, it’s easy to misjudge their speed and distance from a vehicle. Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcycles. Watch for turning motorcycles before you turn.

Those driving cars and trucks also need to pay attention, keep off their phones, and obey traffic regulations, especially in work zones.

“The majority of the contractors take this time off and/or are required not to work this time frame due to higher traffic volumes encountered on a major holiday,” said Todd Rumbaugh, P.E., WVDOH Chief Engineer of Construction. “When possible, we ask that the roadways be cleared of Traffic Control devices but on some projects the devices must remain for the safety of the traveling public.

“Best advice is to stay alert and off cell phones when entering a construction work zone,” Rumbaugh said. “Obey all speed limits in and out construction zones. Pay attention to signage and traffic devices as you pass through the work zone. Lastly, have a safe and wonderful holiday.”

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