Tennessee Highway Patrol emphasizes safe driving

Becky Campbell • May 24, 2012 at 9:34 PM

There’s a simple message local and state law enforcement want to send to motorists — wear your seat belt, don’t drink and drive, and don’t commit hazardous moving violations.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol kicked off the 2012 Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement on Monday, but added the 100 Days of Summer Heat mobilization just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“Seat belts, impaired driving, hazardous moving violations ... that’s what we target. That’s what causes our fatalities and that’s our point of emphasis,” said THP Col. Tracy Trott.

His comments came after a news conference to urge the public to drive safely and rally officers from more than two dozen agencies in four states.

Officers from across the region, including Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, attended the eighth annual traffic safety campaign kick-off, held this year at the THP headquarters in Fall Branch.

“Death doesn’t know what the state line looks like,” Trott said, restating a comment from Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendall Poore.

“If we can have a consistent effort across the state lines and work together, it’s a great community tool. It deters people from driving impaired and driving reckless near the state line,” Trott said.

Even administrative troopers will be in on the weekend push for safe roads.

“All of my administrative troopers will be working at least one shift during the holiday weekend,” Trott said.

“We will have extra troopers this holiday weekend and through the summer heat days.”

In addition to the extra troopers on the roads this holiday weekend, local agencies are pledging their support as well.

Interim Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said state grants from the Governor’s Highway Safety Office will allow him to put more officers on the road at key times for potential traffic dangers.

Likewise, Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal will also take advantage of the funds that will pay overtime for officers to watch for hazardous drivers.

In addition to keeping the public safe on the roads, Trott encouraged officers to also take extra precautions to protect their own lives.

Trott said fatal crashes were at the lowest level last year since 1973, but due to a warm winter and more drivers on the road, there was a spike in the first three months of 2012.

Of the fatalities this year, 55 percent were unrestrained and 25 percent to 30 percent involved impaired drivers.

Poore said there were 947 traffic fatalities in Tennessee last year, and the goal this year is to keep the number under 900.

“If we can increase seat belt use at this time of year through Click It or Ticket, we’re going to be able to make a huge difference again in the lives of Tennesseans,” Poore said.

State and local law enforcement will be conducting seat belt enforcement checkpoints throughout the state all summer. One of those will be held at the Bristol, Tenn. and Bristol, Va., border beginning at 11 tonight and ending at 1 a.m. Saturday.

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