The Chattanooga Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will receive a $300,000 slice of federal safety grants awarded through state agencies this year.
Hundreds of grants totaling more than $18 million have been allocated to law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations and traffic safety advocates across the state through the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.
These grants are distributed to various groups every year who meet required data-driven criteria and highway safety standards outlined by the state agencies in order to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities statewide.
"Our highway safety partners are dedicated men and women who work tirelessly to protect Tennessee roadways every day," Vic Donoho, director of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, said in a news release.
For its part, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will be receiving $84,950 to remove impaired and intoxicated drivers from roads and another $124,080 to continue "Safe Journey," a child passenger safety program.
Safe Journey encourages proper usage of car seats and child car restraints through public and professional education by distributing car seats and conducting weekly car seat checkpoints in Hamilton County and surrounding areas.
"What we have found out in Hamilton County alone, approximately 85 percent of the car seats that are installed in the cars are installed incorrectly because the parents don't know what they're doing," said Charles Lowery, captain of the operational support division within the sheriff's office.
"With our three technicians, we do car seat checks, we train the parents, guardians and grandparents on how to properly install a car seat."
Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of unintentional injury and death to children under the age of 14, according to the sheriff's office, but properly installed child restraints can reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Booster seats also reduce the risk of injury by 59 percent compared to seat belts alone.
The money dedicated to reducing DUIs is a repeat grant for the sheriff's office and will go toward buying more equipment and paying deputies overtime to saturate roadways during peak times.
"We apply for the grant annually and our goal is to reduce the number of drunk and impaired drivers on our streets, to reduce the number of crashes that involve an impaired driver, and basically to save the lives of our citizens and residents of Hamilton County," Lowery said.
He said additional deputies are sent out onto Hamilton County streets with the sole responsibility of reducing drunken driving.
"We go everywhere and we seek out individuals that are impaired and operating motor vehicles," he said. "We also put in money for training, and we also put in money for various supplies such as radar units and portable breathalyzers."
The sole grant of $75,000 awarded to the Chattanooga Police Department is also a recurring sum.
"We get the same grant every year from the state. It's federal tax money and they're the ones who decide who gets what and how much. We get to use that money toward enforcement and also equipment," Sgt. Justin Kilgore said. "Before we even get the money, it's set out how much is going to be spent where."
He said some of the money this year likely will go toward the purchase of a new camera designed to capture the state of drivers' eyes in order to better record some of the signs of intoxication evident to arresting officers. Footage can be used in court or in the police academy to train cadets on what to look for, Kilgore said.
A full list of the grants, including dollar amounts and recipients, can be found online at tntrafficsafety.org.
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.