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Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott last week joined police chiefs and sheriffs’ association leaders and highway safety advocates to announce the nationwide campaign to reduce traffic fatalities by 15 percent in 2014 – the “Drive to Zero Fatalities”.
This national effort was initiated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
The “Drive to Zero Fatalities” campaign is a data-driven effort that will focus on several traffic safety enforcement goals, specifically, seat belt usage, impaired and distracted driving and speeding. It will also include enforcement actions against unsafe driving behaviors of large truck and bus operators.
“Tennessee has recorded some of the lowest traffic fatality figures on record for the past three years. We attribute that accomplishment to the data driven deployment of our state troopers and the work of local law enforcement agencies across the state,” Commissioner Gibbons said. “We hope this year-long traffic safety campaign will produce even better results in Tennessee and nationwide,” he added.
In 2011, there were 937 traffic-related deaths on Tennessee roadways, while 990 people were killed in vehicular crashes in 2013, representing the lowest and second lowest figures, respectively, since 1963. In 2012, 1,018 people died as a result of a traffic crash, the third lowest figure since 1963.
“The message that we want to convey with “Drive to Zero Fatalities” is that no traffic fatality should be acceptable in your circle of friends. This is a personal slogan that everyone can relate to,” Colonel Trott said. “Each one of us should have a vested interest in keeping our highways safe and preventing fatal crashes caused by impaired or distracted driving, failure to wear seat belts and speeding. The “Drive to Zero Fatalities” is our goal for 2014,” he added.
Colonel Trott noted that traffic fatalities on state roadways have decreased by nearly eight percent (7.7%) for the first three months of 2014, compared to this same time period in 2013. He also reported that 192 people died in traffic crashes in Tennessee from January 1 through March 31, 2014. That is 15 fewer than the 207 vehicular fatalities that occurred during the same dates in 2013.
State Troopers have worked 476 alcohol-related crashes to date, a three percent increase from the 462 wrecks involving alcohol during the same time frame in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of DUI arrests made by THP personnel has risen 47 percent during the first quarter of 2014, versus last year’s first quarter impaired driving arrests.
“DUI enforcement is one of our agency’s top priorities. We are grateful for the support of both the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police and Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association in spreading the message to our local law enforcement partners across the state that DUI and seat belt enforcement is an essential component of our success,” Trott said.
As of March 31, the THP has issued 28,850 seat belt citations in 2014. That’s 11,752 more seat belt citations or a 69 percent increase than those issued during the first three months of 2013. However, Colonel Trott and others still expressed concerned about the number of unrestrained fatalities across the state.
“There has been an 18 percent increase in the number of unrestrained fatalities so far this year compared to last. Fifty-nine percent of the people killed in the first three months of 2014 were not wearing seat belts. That is unacceptable. The simple fact is, seat belt saves lives,” he said.
Distracted driving has become a concern in Tennessee and nationally in recent years. Tennessee has seen a drop in distracted driving crashes with 5,294 the first quarter of 2014, compared to 5,724 during the same time last year.
“We recently announced April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and encourage all law enforcement agencies to take an active role in raising awareness on the dangers of distracted driving through this ‘Drive to Zero Fatalities’ campaign,” Kendell Poole said. He serves as the Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
State Troopers will also ensure the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles across the state by conducting truck inspections and placing unsafe drivers or trucks out of service.