Safe driving set for Thanksgiving weekend
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Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Colonel Tracy Trott are reminding citizens to expect a “No Refusal” and high-visibility, safe driving enforcement campaign during the 2012 Thanksgiving Holiday period. The “No Refusal” enforcement will begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday, November 21 and end at midnight, Sunday, November 25.

 The “No Refusal” law allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. The goal is to deter impaired driving and reduce fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways.  The Thanksgiving Holiday marks the third “No Refusal” enforcement effort, following campaigns over the Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday periods.

 “Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday travel season for millions of Americans. In Tennessee, State Troopers, prosecutors and judges in 16 counties across the state have joined together to ensure drunk drivers are removed from the roadways and travelers get to their destination safely. We thank both the local and state officials in advance for their participation in this effort,” Commissioner Gibbons said.

 This targeted “No Refusal” enforcement will focus on 16 counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased in 2012. Two counties from each of the eight THP Districts will participate, including Monroe and Sevier (Knoxville District); Franklin and Grundy (Chattanooga District); Davidson and Sumner (Nashville District); Shelby and Fayette (Memphis District); Cocke and Washington (Fall Branch District); Clay and Putnam (Cookeville District); Lawrence and Maury (Lawrenceburg District); and Chester and Weakley (Jackson District).

 Nine people lost their lives on Tennessee roadways during last year’s Thanksgiving Day Holiday period. That is a decrease of 43.8 percent over the total from 2010 (16). One of the seven vehicle occupants killed during the 2011 Thanksgiving Holiday weekend was not wearing safety restraints. Almost half (44.4) percent of those killed were alcohol-related deaths.

 AAA predicts 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday, up just 0.7 percent from last year. That compares with an increase of eight and six percent, respectively, in the last two years.

 “We anticipate an increase in traffic through Tennessee during the holidays,” Colonel Trott said. “State Troopers will saturate the interstate systems and high-crash corridors and place an emphasis on impaired driving, seat belt usage and traffic law compliance. Our goal is to save lives.”

 Although safety belt usage was measured at 83.7 percent in 2012, more than 56 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in Tennessee traffic crashes were not wearing a safety belt in 2011 (among known seatbelt usage).

 In Tennessee, 53.5 percent of vehicular fatalities are from unrestrained vehicle occupants in 2012. Additionally, alcohol related crashes are on the rise in Tennessee. There have been over 5,000 alcohol crashes already this year. That’s an increase of 95 more impaired driving crashes (1.9%) than this time last year.

 “Our statewide goal is to reduce the number of serious injury and fatal motor vehicle crashes throughout Tennessee,” Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole said. “We’ve significantly increased our efforts by partnering with local law enforcement agencies, as well as state officials during enforcement campaigns such as ‘No Refusal.’ Everyone’s participation is crucial for the success of this campaign.”

 

As of November 19, preliminary statistics indicate that 890 people have died on Tennessee roadways in 2012, an increase of 50 deaths compared to 840 fatalities at this same time a year ago.

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