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Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, Tennessee Highway Patrol Announce Interstate 40 Challenge During Thanksgiving Holiday

Monday, November 25, 2013 | 05:20am

NASHVILLE --- Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott today joined state and federal officials to announce the “Interstate 40 Challenge: The Drive toward Zero Fatalities” traffic enforcement campaign during the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday period. Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Jon Dierberger were also on-hand for the announcement.  

The challenge was issued to seven other state police or highway patrol agencies and consists of increased patrols along the I-40 corridor over two 12 hour periods on November 27 and December 1 – the busiest travel days during the Thanksgiving period – to help achieve the safest possible holiday travel. Law enforcement officials from the California Highway Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, Texas Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Arkansas State Police and North Carolina Highway Patrol have accepted and will participate in the I-40 challenge.

“Colonel Trott has been instrumental in organizing this nationwide traffic safety effort to create a greater law enforcement presence on Interstate 40 from North Carolina to California and to help reduce serious injury and fatal crashes on the I-40 corridor. We’d like to thank all of the participating law enforcement agencies and highway safety advocates who are promoting this initiative and partnering with us to save lives,” Commissioner Gibbons said.

Each agency has been tasked to assign a state trooper every 20 miles of Interstate 40 from noon to midnight on Wednesday, November 27 and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, December 1.

“We determined through research and road experience that the two designated 12-hour periods were the most heavily traveled times during the Thanksgiving holiday. It is my hope that constant visibility from state to state will have an impact on driver behavior and potentially save lives on a major traffic corridor,” Colonel Trott said. 

TDOT Commissioner Schroer noted that Interstate 40 runs 2,555 miles through eight states and has more miles in Tennessee than any other state, with 455 miles. I-40 also provides access to 24 Tennessee counties.

“Our agency works closely with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security throughout the year to help prevent the number of fatalities on Tennessee roadways,” Commissioner Schroer said. “We will continue to support the drive toward zero fatalities by advising the public of this initiative on the Interstate 40 dynamic message boards, providing TDOT HELP trucks to assist with the removal of abandoned vehicles on emergency shoulders, and limiting roadway construction during the Thanksgiving period.”  

The eight participating states will also focus on commercial vehicle and bus safety during the I-40 challenge.

“There is a significant amount of commercial vehicle traffic on Interstate 40 in Tennessee. Our intent will be to uncover any large truck violations and remove any unsafe vehicles and drivers,” Trott said.

There were zero traffic fatalities on Tennessee’s Interstate 40 during last year’s 102-hour Thanksgiving Day period (6 p.m., November 21 - 11:59 p.m., November 25, 2012). However, eight people were killed in vehicular crashes across the state during that same time period in 2012.  Three of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes, while two of the vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.

“The I-40 challenge will not replace any of the highway safety efforts that local law enforcement will conduct during the holiday,” Director Poole said. “Both state troopers and local municipalities will work together throughout the holiday period, focusing on seat belt enforcement, speeding, impairment and distracted driving on roadways across the state.”

To date, Tennessee has experienced the lowest number of traffic fatalities in November in the last four years. State law enforcement officials have also seen a nearly eight percent decline in alcohol related crashes this year, compared to this same time period last year.

Colonel Trott believes the THP’s DUI enforcement has helped reduce the number of impaired driving crashes.  Through 2013, state troopers arrested 5,618 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving, an increase from the 5,187 DUI arrests made this same time period in 2012. That’s an 8.3 percent climb.

THP has also placed a greater emphasis on seat belt enforcement this year with a 52.8 percent increase in seat belt citations statewide compared to last year. However, unrestrained occupants still make up 49 percent of the state’s fatalities.

“This I-40 challenge is just the start of changing the behaviors of motorists across the country. The International Association of Chiefs of Police will continue the drive toward zero fatalities campaign in 2014 and work to reduce highway deaths across the country,” Trott added.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s checkpoint schedule during the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday accompanies this release. Last year’s Thanksgiving Day period statistical report is also attached.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.

Safety & Homeland Security | Press Releases