THP: ‘Slow ... down!’: Cellphones and speed are biggest road threats
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Write
Jun 19, 2013 | 1664 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Guest speaker Lt. John Harmon
ROTARIAN Nicholas Lillios, left, speaks with Rotary Club of Cleveland guest speaker Lt. John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Harmon spoke to the local civic club about safety issues on Tennessee roadways. Two of the biggest are speed and cellphones.
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Staying safe on highways was the focus for Lt. John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol during his presentation to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday.

Excessive speed makes driving more dangerous, Harmon said.

He said many people drive 10 mph over the speed limit thinking they will not be stopped or given a ticket.

“You are subject to a citation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol after 3 mph over the speed limit,” Harmon said. “You need to abide by the speed limit.”

The fast pace of today’s society leaves people driving faster and more distracted.

“We are trying to do too much stuff in a short amount of time,” Harmon said. “In that, our mind is not on the road; we are focused on the things that we are trying to get done,” rather than what’s going on around us on the roads.

Cellphones also contribute to distracted driving.

“That phone is worse than a drunk driver,” Harmon said.

He said no driver should ever drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Wearing a seat belt is a major safety precaution people need to take. It is the law that everyone under the age of 18 and everyone in the front seat has to wear a seat belt, and young children and infants must be properly restrained. Harmon said seat belts save lives and prevent other injuries.

“Everybody in the car needs to wear a seat belt,” so that they are not catapulted forward in the event of an accident, the officer said.

In fatal crashes last year in the 12 counties that make up the Chattanooga district, 60 percent were not wearing a seat belt.

“And out of that 60 percent, 50 percent of them would have survived if they would have been wearing their seat belt,” Harmon said of safety experts’ assessments.

He said it is important to share safety tips with others.

It is also important to drive defensively because so many people drive “offensively,” Harmon said.

Driving in the right lane is safer than the left lane because it puts more space between the vehicle and oncoming traffic. An average of 3 feet is the space between opposing lanes of traffic.

“The left lane is made for passing, not driving,” Harmon said.

Driving with one’s lights on when driving on the highway, even during the day, is another safety precaution.

Locking one’s doors while driving is also important, Harmon said. In a crash, doors that are locked tend to stay closed more often than those that are not.

“If you are in a crash and your doors are unlocked, they will pop open ... if your doors come open, you will have more injuries,” Harmon said.

He emphasized drivers need to avoid “taking chances while driving.”

“Taking chances” includes, for example, trying to turn onto a road at a stoplight quickly to avoid getting behind a school bus, or trying to turn onto a road without properly checking to see if it is clear. He also reminded drivers that motorcycles are harder to spot on the roads than other vehicles.

“You need to be looking twice for those motorcycles, especially on a pretty day,” Harmon said.

He reminded Rotarians to make sure their car registration and insurance are in the car together and that the insurance card is the most recent one.