(NASHVILLE) - Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott announce plans to help reduce the number of serious injury and fatal crashes during Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer months. The strategy is part of the THP’s “Drive to Zero” fatalities campaign.
State Troopers plan to increase patrols and utilize a variety of traffic safety enforcement tools, specifically, “No Refusal” enforcement. The first is occurring during this holiday weekend. The “No Refusal” enforcement will be conducted in one county in each of the eight THP Districts across the state during the Memorial Day period. “No Refusal” allow law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Participating counties include Rutherford.
Throughout the summer, the THP will conduct seat belt, sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints statewide and use saturation patrols in an effort to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes in the state.
In 2013, 10 people were killed in traffic crashes during the 78-hour holiday enforcement. That’s down from the 14 deaths that occurred during the 2012 Memorial Day period. Last year, there were seven vehicle occupants killed and two motorcyclists and one bicyclist who died. Seven of the vehicular fatalities were alcohol-related and three (42.9%) were unrestrained.
“We are committed to reducing the number of traffic fatalities in our state, especially during the busiest travel months of the year. Colonel Trott, Commissioner Schroer at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and our partners in the Governor’s Highway Safety Office are utilizing all of their resources to keep those traveling to and from Tennessee safe this Memorial Day period,” Gibbons said.
TDOT will halt all construction projects and use the dynamic messaging boards across the state to post traffic safety messages throughout the Memorial Day weekend.
The participating “No Refusal” counties include Sevier (Knoxville District); McMinn (Chattanooga District); Rutherford (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Washington (Fall Branch District); Cumberland (Cookeville District); Giles (Lawrenceburg District); and Weakley County (Jackson District).
“State troopers arrested 113 suspects on suspicion of DUI and issued 1,669 seat belt citations statewide during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend. Our primary focus continues to be removing drunk drivers from our roadways and ensuring motorists are buckled up,” Colonel Trott said.
Last week, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) launched the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign to urge motorists to buckle up. To date, 56 percent of the state’s crash fatalities are from unrestrained motorists.
“The number of fatal crash victims due to non-seat belt usage in our state is unacceptable. We have partnered with the highway patrol, as well as local law enforcement officials, to aggressively enforce the seat belt law on Memorial Day weekend through the first of June. This campaign is not about writing tickets - it’s about saving lives,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said.
In 2013, 321 people were killed in fatal crashes from Memorial Day weekend through the end of Labor Day weekend (May 24 - Sept. 2) in Tennessee. Twenty-four percent of those traffic fatalities were alcohol-related, while 50 percent were unrestrained motorists. During that time, there were also 64 motorcycle fatalities.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to also recognize May as Motorcycle Awareness Month. With the warmer temperatures, we’ll see more riders on the roadways. It is important for both motorists and motorcyclists to educate themselves, be alert and follow the rules of the road to help keep everyone safe,” Trott said.
As of May 20, 315 people have been killed on Tennessee roadways this calendar year. That is 31 fewer vehicular fatalities than the 346 killed during this same time period last year. Of the vehicle occupant fatalities this year, nearly half (56 percent) were not restrained and 17.7 percent have been alcohol-related.