A late-night telephone call or a knock at the front door by a traffic enforcement officer who has completed the investigation of a vehicular crash involving one or more fatalities.
It is gut-wrenching news.
It is a sickening experience that leaves excruciating heartbreak and an unbelievable emptiness in the soul of those receiving the words of tragedy.
Families in our Cleveland and Bradley County community have heard these messages far too often in 2011. Eight deaths ... so far. Six have come within the past few weeks.
Even more tragic is that five of the last six fatalities have included drivers and passengers whose ages have ranged, sadly, from 18 to 27.
Another painful truth is that causal factors in some have included alcohol and speeding.
In an attempt to thwart future tragedy, the Traffic Enforcement Unit of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office has begun a crackdown on motorists who speed, and especially those who place others at risk by abusing alcohol or other impairing substances while behind the steering wheel of a vehicle.
It is a decision well worth the making.
It is an action that easily justifies its taking.
It is a commitment readily understood and one we support for however long and widespread that county resources will allow.
Traffic deaths are a horrifying and brutal reality. Yet, they can be curbed — not stopped altogether, but reduced — by proactive approaches from area law enforcement agencies such as that announced last week by the local Traffic Enforcement Unit.
Those befuddled by the Sheriff’s Office mode of patrol during this time of urgency — using unmarked vehicles — are likely those who have never received the midnight knock on the door or the dreaded late-night phone call.
The tragedy is this.
Bradley County’s young residents are dying from preventable causes — namely, excessive speed and driver impairment; and in some cases, both.
We join the Traffic Enforcement Unit in urging area motorists to slow down, guard against angered driving and road rage, and most significantly, do not get behind a steering wheel when impaired, whether by alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit substances of any variety.
The most compelling argument is this. Impaired drivers are dangers to themselves. But they are lethal threats to others whose vehicles are sharing the same road.
For proof, one need only to consider a recent sentencing in our community. The young woman, an alcohol-impaired driver with a .24 blood alcohol level, will spend the next 10 years in prison following an APD 40 crash that took the life of a young Cleveland man. In a future session, the Tennessee General Assembly will consider “Dustin’s Law,” a movement triggered by this tragedy that could strengthen DUI laws in our state.
Lt. W.G. Campbell of the Traffic Enforcement Unit told our newspaper, “We are going to be more aggressive ... and will be driving vehicles which will appear just like the car or truck the everyday driver uses for transportation.”
In other words, they will be unmarked.
Bradley County drivers should consider themselves forewarned.
Some might call it a guerilla tactic by county law enforcement.
It is not. Aggressive? Yes. But guerilla? No.
It is an appropriate action.
And for many reasons.
We can quickly think of eight.