published Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Monthlong traffic safety campaign under way in Tennessee

Sgt. Gary R. Martin, of the Chattanooga Police Department, uses a speed-detection Stalker Laser device to read the speed of northbound traffic on state Highway 153 on Tuesday. The effort is part of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office initiative to keep statewide traffic fatalities down through the holiday season, according to Clint Shrum, liaison for the governor's program.
Sgt. Gary R. Martin, of the Chattanooga Police Department, uses a speed-detection Stalker Laser device to read the speed of northbound traffic on state Highway 153 on Tuesday. The effort is part of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office initiative to keep statewide traffic fatalities down through the holiday season, according to Clint Shrum, liaison for the governor's program.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    A reading of 105 m.p.h. appears on Sgt. Gary R. Martin's Stalker Laser device from atop the Shepherd Road overpass on state Highway 153 Tuesday.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Tennessee's state and local law enforcement officials said Tuesday that the next two months is not the time for unwise driving decisions.

The Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office announced Tuesday morning that it is teaming up with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and the Chattanooga Police Department for a high-visibility traffic safety campaign throughout the holiday season.

Authorities are beefing up their presence on area roads, and they will be looking for any traffic-related law violations. Tuesday, Chattanooga committed more officers to the traffic division for a day to kick-start the campaign.

"We've been lenient for too long, so it's time to start putting the hammer down," Chattanooga police Sgt. David Gibb said.

Megan Buell, public information officer with the governor's safety office, said authorities are coordinating for holiday enforcement because it's a time when a lot of drivers are out for shopping, events and visiting family and friends.

And they may be driving under the influence of alcohol or while distracted.

"We're always more vigilant during the holiday season," Buell said.

She also said the campaign is "a big effort across the entire state" to crack down on road safety, especially in Hamilton County, in light of higher-than-normal 2013 traffic fatalities statewide.

  • photo
    A police cruiser pulls a speeding violator to the shoulder beneath the Shallowford Road overpass on state Highway 153 Tuesday.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

"One fatality is one too many," she said. "It is an urgent situation."

As of Tuesday, there had been 852 traffic fatalities in Tennessee since Jan. 1. Between July and October of this year, fatalities were higher than they were during the same four-month period in 2012.

Charles Lowery Jr., traffic supervisor with the sheriff's office, said local authorities will not stop at just hoping to create safer roads throughout the campaign. It's going to happen, he said.

"We will be removing impaired and intoxicated drivers from the roadway," he said Tuesday.

Lowery also said mundane violations -- such as expired vehicle tags or not having proof of insurance -- spotted by police likely will lead officers to "go further" in checking for other problems. That includes child restraint laws, he said.

"Those are areas that people have to concentrate on," he said. "Some people do not take that seriously."

Lowery directed anyone with child restraint law questions to call the sheriff's department and request the Safe Journey program for free help and advice.

Buell said the holiday safety campaign is not an attempt to pick on drivers. She said the goal is to have drivers second-guess questionable road decisions.

"There are high-risk drivers on a daily basis who are not paying attention when they're driving on our roadways," she said.

Some traffic checkpoints will be planned during the campaign. Buell said notifications will be made ahead of time.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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