Governor’s Highway Safety Office addresses 166 percent increase in fatalities in Upper Cumberland

Posted By | January 31, 2013 12:00 am

At a press conference in Cookeville on Jan. 24, Clint Shrum, of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, while surrounded by law enforcement officers from across the Upper Cumberland, addressed the media about the 166 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the region compared to this time last year.
According to Shrum, there have been eight fatal traffic crashes so far in 2013 in the Upper Cumberland region, compared to three last year. Of these eight deaths, three involved impaired drivers, two involved commercial vehicles and one involved a motorcycle.
Only one person out of the eight was restrained, and all of the crashes occurred during the day-between 6:55 a.m. and 4 p.m.
There has been one fatal crash in White County so far this year. The driver was restrained.
“The madness and mayhem has got to stop. People are spending too much time in hospitals and funeral homes,” Shrum stated.
According to Shrum, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies have beefed up their patrols and have staged saturations and checkpoints to keep Tennessee Roads Safe.
“It’s not an enforcement problem. We need the help of the motorist public,” Shrum stated.
Shrum believes that there is a major problem with distracted driving and impaired driving.
Because of the crashes occurring during the day, Shrum says it is evidence of a trend toward driving under the influence of prescription medication, rather than just alcohol.
“You are impaired when you take any substance that impairs your ability to drive-even if it is prescribed by a doctor.” Shrum advises that residents should check the labels of their medications. The red or yellow label that advises that heavy machinery should not be operated while on the medication, “is on there for a reason,” and heavy machinery includes motor vehicles.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Captain R.C. Christian, a White County native who is in charge of the 16-county Cookeville district, says that the technique employed by law enforcement has to be unique to this district.
“It’s humbling to hear that we’re plus five over last year,” Cpt. Christian stated.
In an effort to combat the growing number of fatal crashes, Cpt. Christian says that he has asked the supervisors of each area in the district to discern the locations and contributing factors of the crashes to better address the problem.
Cpt. Christian says that because of the limited number of troopers, THP will be partnering with other law enforcement agencies to conduct extra patrols and enforcement.
Though last year over 5,000 seat belt citations were issued, Cpt. Christian wants to place further effort on nighttime seat belt enforcement.
Cpt. Christian says education has been a major component of his plan to enforce seat belt use. He and other troopers have recently visited schools to teach children the importance of seat belt use, hoping that ingraining safe driving habits in children while they are young will equate to developing safe driving as they get older.
“We will be very aggressive. We live in these communities and we want to make a difference. I can guarantee, THP will be very proactive,” Cpt. Christian remarked
Shrum responded, “This isn’t going to be ticketpalooza.” Shrum says that whatever the situation warrants, education, tickets, or jail, officers will, “do whatever it takes.”
“It’s got to stop. People are dying. We buried 1,019 people last year. Fifty-seven percent weren’t wearing their seat belt. At this rate, there will be 156 fatalities in the Cookeville district by the end of this year.
“Pay attention, slow down and don’t drink and drive,” he stated, and reminded residents, “You cannot text and drive safely.”
In an effort to concentrate efforts on safe driving, Shrum says law enforcement will be rolling out their “More Cops More Stops” program beginning Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. through Feb. 3. Officers will be conducting saturations and additional patrols, targeting any and all driving violations.

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