NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol will combine forces with other state and local law enforcement agencies around the country for this year's "Lights on for Life Day", held Friday, December 17.
"Lights on for Life" is a symbolic headlight observance designed to focus attention on the impaired driving issue and remember those who have lost their lives due to drunk drivers.
"I am proud that our State Troopers are participating in such an important and unified effort to ensure a safe holiday season," said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. "Tennesseans are encouraged to join in this movement and stand against impaired driving by turning their car headlights on throughout the day Friday."
Lights on for Life Day is the lead-in event for "National Holiday Lifesaver Weekend," a three-day DUI enforcement campaign from December 17 through December 19. This program, which is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff's Association, has been conducted every year since 1991 and always falls on the weekend prior to Christmas.
"Traditionally, the time period between Christmas and New Year's Day is a time of increased travel and alcohol consumption," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "We hope to spread awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving by participating in both the Lights on for Life and National Holiday Lifesaver weekend enforcement activities with increased visibility throughout the state."
Sobriety checkpoints and driver license checkpoints will be conducted in counties throughout the state this weekend and throughout the holidays. Tennessee law allows fines of up to $1,500 and a maximum of 12 months in jail for first time DUI offenders. Multiple offenders can be sentenced to jail for up to six years and may be ordered to pay fines of as much as $15,000.
The Woodbury Police Dept. and the Cannon County Sheriff's Dept will be conducting saturation patrols today.
In 2009, 303 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in Tennessee that involved a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than .08, the legal limit. That represented 31 percent of the state's 989 traffic fatalities. Nationally, 10,839 people died in crashes that involved a drunk driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher in 2009.
"Far too many people still get behind the wheel after drinking," said Colonel Trott. "This negligent act is not a mistake, it is a crime. If we catch you, we will arrest you."
As of December 15, preliminary statistics indicate that 994 people have died on Tennessee roadways in 2010, an increase of 48 deaths compared to 946 fatalities at this same time a year ago. Traffic fatalities in Tennessee declined more than 23 percent over a four year period (2006-2009).