Changes underway to make Highway 49 in Wiggins safer

WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - A high number of wrecks along a stretch of Highway 49 in Wiggins has sparked changes intended to make getting around safer for drivers. People must now drive slower when passing through Wiggins.

Recently the speed limit on Highway 49 was lowered from 65 mph to 55 along the section of highway where most of the businesses are located. Police Chief Matt Barnett said the lower speed limit seems to be helping as far as reducing the number of accidents.

That's not all that is being done to reduce the number of crashes. Where Hall Street meets Highway 49, many drivers say there are often accidents.

"There's probably at least two or three wrecks a week," said Lacey Sones. "There was actually one yesterday, or the day before yesterday, that involved three vehicles that had to be towed."

"There's a lot of accidents there. I guess because people are not taking their time, waiting and being patient," Theresa Cohen said.

Soon, cars won't be able to turn south on 49 from Hall Street. MDOT is extending the frontage road to Magnolia Drive and installing a traffic light where Magnolia meets 49. Officials said the next step will be closing the Hall Street crossover. So drivers who want to turn south on 49 will have to either go to the light at Magnolia or the traffic light at Walmart. Not everyone is thrilled.

"That's not a very good idea because no one is going to be able to get through this right here very easily like they used to. It's going to be more traffic and hard to get to places," Collin O'Neal said.

While some business owners expressed worry that the changes would discourage customers, salon owner Tiffany Garcia said after seeing her clients and others badly injured, she's ready for whatever will cut the number of wrecks.

"It really doesn't bother me to know we might lose clients if other people are staying safe," Garcia said. "It's a lot safer to not have that, but if they really want to come they'll go to one of the lights, so I don't think it will jeopardize business too badly."

Officials said the project should be done in December. Wiggins police say most of the accidents they've see at Hall Street have involved serious injuries.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.