SAFETY FIRST – The Tennessee Highway Patrol will be out in full force beginning Wednesday in preparation for the busy Thanksgiving holiday. A seatbelt checkpoint is planned for Wednesday in Weakley County and sobriety checkpoints will take place across the state this weekend.
Nashville – With millions of Americans hitting the roads this holiday season, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be kicking up its Thanksgiving Day enforcement from 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 24 through midnight Sunday, Nov. 28. State Troopers, who will also be conducting a 12-hour “C.A.R.E. Across Tennessee” campaign from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 24, have a message for motorists traveling through the state – “Let your little light shine.”
To participate in the C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Enforcement) safe driving campaign, drivers are encouraged to travel with their headlights on to indicate their commitment for safe driving, seat belt usage, and traffic law compliance. In addition, State Troopers will be assigned to every 10-mile stretch of road on both the eastbound and westbound lanes of travel on Interstate 40.
“In addition to the Thanksgiving Day Holiday Weekend enforcement, our State Troopers are covering a large portion of the interstate to ensure motorists are obeying the law and wearing seat belts, especially,” said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell.
“We want to increase our visibility and remind everyone to start the holidays off on the right foot and buckle up on every trip.”
Although safety belt usage climbed to 87 percent in 2010, more than 56 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in Tennessee traffic crashes were not wearing a safety belt in 2009.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on any given day about 38 passenger vehicle occupants who are not buckled up are killed in motor vehicle crashes. Research shows that it is almost nine times safer to wear your safety belt every time you get in the car.
“Our C.A.R.E. campaign and holiday enforcement is a chance for motorists to stand in solidarity with us by turning on their headlights to send a strong message that if you are not wearing a seatbelt, or driving aggressively or drunk, and displaying a total disregard for the law and human life, will not be tolerated,” said THP Colonel Tracy Trott.
“We want everyone traveling through Tennessee and beyond to get to their destination safely.”
Ten people were killed in eight fatal crashes on Tennessee roads during the 2009 Thanksgiving Holiday, 102-hour period. That is the same number as 2008 and fewer than the 13 people who died in 2007.
Five of the seven vehicle occupants who were killed during the 2009 Thanksgiving Holiday weekend were not wearing safety restraints.
NHTSA statistics show that those least likely to buckle up are teens; young adults; males; nighttime riders; motorists traveling on rural roads; and individuals traveling in pickup trucks. In 2009 alone, over 11,500 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants lost their lives on U.S. roadways.
“The ultimate goal is to boost seat belt usage and save lives,” added Colonel Trott. “Don’t let this joyful holiday turn into a tragedy by failing to buckle up – Click it or Ticket.”
Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, according to NHTSA.
Research has shown that when lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.
As of Nov. 18, preliminary statistics indicate that 934 people have died on Tennessee roadways in 2010, an increase of 61 deaths compared to 873 fatalities at this same time a year ago.
Statewide, fatalities are up this year after a year in 2009 when fatalities fell to their lowest level since 1963. Many of the deaths could have easily been prevented by simply buckling a seatbelt.
“All it takes is a couple of seconds to buckle your seatbelt,” said Kendell Poole, Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
“If people would take this one simple and easy step before they get in a vehicle, Tennessee fatalities could be reduced significantly.”
The Tennessee Department of Safety’s mission is ( www.TN.Gov/safety ) to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public.
The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.
In Tennessee in 2009, there were 8 fatal crashes resulting in 10 deaths, yielding a fatality rate of one death per 10 hours and 12 minutes. Seven crashes were single vehicle crashes. One was a multiple vehicle crash. One of the fatalities occurred in an alcohol-related crash.
Seven of the people killed were vehicle occupants.
Five of the seven (71.4 percent) were not wearing safety restraints.
Two of the seven were ejected from their vehicles.
No child passengers were killed.
One motorcyclist was killed while wearing a helmet. Two pedestrians were killed.
In 1966, 34 people were killed in Tennessee traffic crashes during the 102-hour Thanksgiving holiday period, yielding a fatality rate of one death per three hours, which resulted in the highest death rate in Tennessee.
The lowest death rate was recorded in 1983, when seven people were killed in Tennessee traffic crashes during the 102-hour Thanksgiving holiday period, yielding a fatality rate of one death per 14.6 hours.
The 2010 Thanksgiving Day holiday period will begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 24 and will end 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28.
This is a 102-hour holiday period.