NASHVILLE - Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott today partnered with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) and various local and state officials to announce this weekend’s first-ever “No Refusal” enforcement campaign.
The “No Refusal” enforcement period begins at 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 3, and will end at midnight, Sunday, July 8. This special enforcement will take place in selected counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased in 2012, specifically, Anderson, Bradley, Davidson, Maury and Warren Counties. State and local officials will also conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in those counties as well as in other parts of the state.
The “No Refusal” law, enacted this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a blood alcohol content test and face charges of violating the implied consent law. This new law enables law enforcement to legally obtain blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges throughout the state during the warrant acquisition process.
“An enforcement campaign such as this requires the coordination and cooperation between law enforcement, local and state officials, and hospitals and emergency services personnel from across the state,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “The new law is an effective tool to hold impaired drivers accountable, but we hope as well that it will help deter people from driving under the influence in the first place,” Commissioner Gibbons added.
The preliminary number alcohol-related crashes on Tennessee roadways has increased 7.5 percent for the first six months of 2012, compared to the same time period last year. The THP reports 2,547 crashes involving impaired drivers in Tennessee from January 1 through June 30, 2012. That is 177 more than the 2,370 crashes during those same dates in 2011.
“It is my goal for the Tennessee Highway Patrol to do everything in its power to reduce alcohol-related fatalities and serious injury crashes on state highways and roads,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “DUI enforcement has been a top priority for our agency over the last few years, and this new law will help keep drunk drivers off of the road.”
The “No Refusal” event also coincides with the state’s 2012 Fourth of July enforcement period, beginning at midnight, Wednesday, July 4 and ending at 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 8. During the 2011 Fourth of July holiday weekend, eight people died in seven crashes on Tennessee roadways. That’s the lowest number of deaths in a 96-hour Fourth of July period on record, yielding a fatality rate of one death every 12 hours. Of the seven vehicle occupants killed last year, five (71.4%) were not wearing seatbelts. One motorcyclist also died during last year’s July 4th holiday weekend. Four of the deaths, or 50 percent, occurred in alcohol-related crashes.
During the 2010 Fourth of July weekend, 392 people were killed in vehicular crashes nationwide. Of those fatalities, 39 percent were in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 higher.
Impaired-driving crashes killed 10,228 people nationwide in 2010, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
In Tennessee, 946 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2011. Preliminary statistics indicate 250 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2011 that involved alcohol (26.4%).
“Impaired drivers account for approximately 30 percent of our state’s fatalities,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. “With the help of this new legislation, education, and enforcement efforts by our state and local law enforcement partners across the state, we can reduce that number and help save lives in Tennessee.”
As of July 2, preliminary statistics indicate 497 people have died on Tennessee roadways, an increase of 34 deaths compared to 463 fatalities at this same time in 2011.
“I am extremely concerned about the number of fatalities occurring on Tennessee roadways, and alcohol is a contributing factor in too many of these crashes,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “Whether it’s displaying the fatality information on our message boards or educating the public about the new No Refusal law, awareness is key in making our roads safer.”