The awareness effort, announced more than two weeks ago in the Banner, is an effort to raise awareness of the dangers of erratic and unsafe driving practices.
Ruth announced Tuesday afternoon that Bradley County officers will soon begin a vigorous campaign of issuing citations for driving violations, following a two- to three-week period of leniency for minor infractions.
Over the next two weeks, drivers making minor mistakes may be given an option of receiving a citation or receiving a “Lifesaver.” This doesn’t mean citations will not be written, but is a means of generating some awareness to the dangers of roadway driving.
Ruth emphasized 143 people have lost their lives on local roads and highways since 2002. “This affects us greatly as a community,” Ruth said in a press conference in his office at the Bradley County Justice Center.
“This is far too many for a community of our size,” the sheriff continued.
“About 30 percent of these traffic deaths were caused by speeding, and another 30 percent by alcohol,” Ruth continued. “Other tragedies were caused by cellphone use (and other driving mistakes). We’re going to try and reduce these statistics.”
Ruth said the “Lifesaver” campaign will be treated like he did his election campaign. “We’re going to put strategy in place to reach our goals,” he said.
The sheriff said another part of the awareness effort will be to actually enforce traffic laws.
“Initially, we’re going to take another step,” Ruth explained about the countywide effort. “We’re going to write warning tickets and pass out these Lifesavers. Then, we’ll begin writing citations.”
Ruth and Campbell said the Sheriff’s Office will be increasing traffic patrols on local roadways, with more cars and more officers.
The two county officers emphasized the awareness initiative will be no expense to Cleveland and Bradley County taxpayers. A recent mini-grant (for $5,000) will pay for any additional expenses, and was used to purchase the department’s 1,100 Lifesavers.
“Anyone driving a patrol car will be involved in the ‘Lifesaver’ campaign,” said the sheriff. He added this is a good time of the year for the awareness campaign, since tragedies often spike during the holidays.
The sheriff added a little trivial information. “We’ve also discovered that traffic events spike during an election year,” he said. “We provided this information to the state, and they found this is true across Tennessee. We don’t know the reason, but it’s proven to be true.”
Ruth said he expects the awareness campaign to go rapidly at first, and then smooth out somewhat. “It’ll continue through the next year,” he said.
“Our goal,” said the county sheriff, “is to reduce these tragic statistics as much as possible. I don’t like to write tickets, but I like it less when I get a call that someone has been killed in a car crash.”
Campbell said, “You’ll see more cars on the roadways, especially on weekends. We want to educate people that we’ll be out there, and we’ll be more aggressive. We’ve been averaging about 15 traffic deaths each year, and that’s too many.”
Campbell added the No. 1 cause of injury and property loss/damage is car crashes.
Ruth said Bradley County officers will focus on reducing serious-injury crashes and crashes involving the loss of life, over the next several months. “We are committed to reducing fatalities, and we’re asking the public to become a safety partner with the Sheriff’s Office,” Ruth said.
Campbell reports 11 traffic fatalities have been recorded in Bradley County this year. There were 17 traffic deaths locally in 2010.
The largest number of traffic fatalities in one year came in 2002, when 23 people died. The following year the Sheriff’s Office formed its traffic unit and fatalities dropped to 14.
Ruth said the increase in population and growth of retail and industry has caused local traffic congestion to increase.
He said county officers will focus more on impaired driving, with sobriety checkpoints, during the holidays. The sheriff is also planning periodic updates on the progress of his “Lifesaver” campaign.
Campbell said the presence of officers on area roadways will increase immediately, and traffic offenders will be ticketed. Or, you may receive a “Lifesaver” to call your attention to the potential danger of a driving mistake.