May is Motorcycle Awareness month and drivers are urged to “Share the Road” with the two-wheeled vehicles. Tennessee Department of Safety also urged drivers to be aware of bicyclists as well.
Locally, Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to motorists who have developed bad driving or other dangerous habits over time.
Tennessee Highway Patrol is planning several programs targeted to save lives this summer.
Patrol and traffic deputies are working together to watch for motorists who drive aggressively, in excess of the posted speed limit, and are behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol.
The crackdown is timed to coincide with the increase in traffic the sheriff’s office normally sees with warmer weather.
“Traffic deputies will work extra hours on weekends through the July 4 holiday,” according to Bob Gault, media relations coordinator for the sheriff’s office.
Leutinant W.G. Campbell, supervisor of BCSO’s Traffic Unit, said the enforcement initiative is targeted to take dangerous drivers off the road before their careless habits cause a crash that leads to life-threatening injuries or death.
Campbell said Bradley County recorded 130 traffic deaths from 2000 through 2008. Last year that number grew by 16 making it the 8th highest of the past 10 years.
“Bradley County went through the first 100 days of the year without a traffic fatality,” Campbell pointed out, “but three people have since lost their lives in two crashes on I-75.”
No fatalities have been reported this year regarding motorcyclists and figures fell from 2008’s 143 to 2009’s 120 motorcycle-related crash deaths.
The deadly crashes occurred within a period of five days.
“Traffic safety is something everyone should take seriously,” Campbell said, “Not everyone does and they are the ones that get pulled over and reminded about bad driving habits.”
The majority of traffic stops end with a warning, but citations are issued when they are warranted.
Campbell said traffic offenses are a black mark on your driving record. They can affect ability to buy insurance or keep insurance. State citations for speeding can cost up to $391 and points on driver’s license. For other moving violations fines and court costs can be up to $161.
“Traffic violations also lead to higher insurance premiums and costs are substantially higher for DUI convictions, topping out over thousands of dollars,” Gault said.
During the initiative the traffic unit may focus on specific locations where data shows a need for targeted enforcement.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office is targeting teens who do not wear safety belts.
“The GHSO wants to help save teen lives by encouraging more teens to wear their safety belts. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.”
“Click it or Ticket” has been a successful public safety program which has raised awareness regarding safety belt use.
According to GHSO 2008 figures, 125 teens died in traffic crashes in Tennessee. The data reflects a decline from 185 in 2006, “but teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
GHSO Director Kendall Poole said, “Teens need to remember whether they are driving across town or just around the neighborhood, wearing seat belts is the absolute best way to protect themselves and their passengers from severe injury or even death. Wearing your seat belt costs nothing, but not wearing it could cost you your life.”
Poole also noted that teens can be easily distracted with “texting.
“Texting may be a convenient way to communicate but it can be deadly when done from behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is also against the law in Tennessee.”
Sheriff Tim Gobble pointed out three rules for saving lives on the road.
“Don’t drink and drive, obey the speed limit, and always wear your seatbelt. It’s time to work together to stop the needless loss of life,” said Gobble.
TDOS Commissioner Dave Mitchell said, “It only takes a few seconds to buckle up, avoid a ticket and possibly save your life. Yet many still fail to take the time.”
TDOS figures showed 989 people died on the roadways and Interstates in Tennessee in 2009. Passenger vehicle crashes killed 820 people and more than half failed to “buckle-up.”