In an effort to cut down on statewide drinking and driving, the Tennessee Highway Patrol is conducting “no refusal” enforcement in the days surrounding the New Year’s holiday.
Washington County avoided logging a single fatality last year in the midst of the troopers’ 2012-13 campaign. Nine deaths were recorded last year in the state during that 78-hour holiday period, numbers provided by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said. Five of those nine deaths occurred in alcohol-related crashes.
“No refusal” means that law enforcement officers can seek search warrants to obtain blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Another way law enforcement can tackle drinking-related incidents is to gain probable cause through lesser suspected violations, like those involving safety belts and driver’s licenses. Checkpoints for both will be in effect during this year’s effort, set to begin at 6 p.m. Monday and ending at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
Lieutenant Richard Garrison, of the Fall Branch office of the THP, said this is a successful way of heading off crime. He said in doing so in a situation last year, troopers posted up on the corner of an intersection and saw a car drive by with a driver not wearing his safety belt. Upon pulling him over, Garrison said, they found her had an open container in the vehicle and marijuana on his person.
Law enforcement knows what’s going on, Garrison said. They know when bars close, when parties end and when people are looking to be hitting the road.
Statewide, last year Tennessee racked up 6,180 individuals who were arrested for impaired driving from Jan. 1-Dec. 20, THP Col. Tracy Trott said, as opposed to 5,558 the previous year, which shows an 11 percent increase.
“We will be out in force to help protect the motoring public during this festive holiday. It is our hope that citizens celebrate responsibly and don’t get behind the wheel after drinking. Drunk driving is the worst mistake you can ever make,” Trott said.
A news release from the state says the THP will conduct saturation patrols for seat belt violations, sobriety checks, driver’s license checkpoints and bar checks during the holiday.
Garrison said state troopers are scheduling checkpoints around the times when they’re aware most crashes are taking place, and that their information is completely data driven. He said they’ll stay out until 3 or 4 in the morning.
“If you’re going to drink, stay put for the night, or call a designated driver,” Garrison said.