NASHVILLE — Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott on Monday announced the second annual “Interstate 40 Challenge: The Drive to Zero Fatalities” traffic safety initiative during the Thanksgiving holiday period. The announcement was held at the agency’s Training Center in Nashville.

Colonel Trott was joined by Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole and Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police President Chuck Forbis and Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Terry Ashe.

The Interstate 40 Challenge will consist of increased patrols from state police or highway patrol agencies along the I-40 corridor in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee.  The challenge will take place on the busiest travel days of the Thanksgiving period, specifically from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30.

“Last year, Tennessee reported zero traffic fatalities on Interstate 40 during the challenge times,” Colonel Trott said. “We hope to have the same success this year and will again deploy our resources to help ensure a safe travel experience through our state on the busiest travel days of the Thanksgiving period.”

I-40 runs 2,555 miles through eight states, and has more miles in Tennessee than any other state with 455 miles. In 2013, Tennessee state troopers investigated 29 crashes on the Wednesday before and 36 wrecks on the Sunday after Thanksgiving during the I-40 challenge times. None of those crashes were alcohol-related.

THP personnel also issued 69 seat belt citations on I-40 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2013, coupled with 18 seat belt tickets on the Sunday after the holiday.  They also arrested four individuals on suspicion of impaired driving on I-40 on the two challenge days.

“Our number one priority is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in Tennessee and to keep our roadways safe throughout the holidays,” Commissioner Gibbons said. “The Interstate 40 Challenge is another traffic safety tool that will help us save lives on a major traffic corridor. Thanks to all of the participating law enforcement agencies across the state and the country who are participating in this initiative and helping motorists reach their destinations safely this Thanksgiving holiday,” he added.

Commissioner Gibbons also requested a proclamation from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to raise awareness of this traffic safety campaign.  He presented the proclamation to Colonel Trott and the other highway safety representatives at today’s announcement.

Tennessee state troopers will be assigned every 20 miles of I-40 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30. Additionally, Colonel Trott has requested increased law enforcement visibility on all major interstates throughout Tennessee.

“We are hoping that a large law enforcement presence on the interstates will have an impact on driver behavior,” Colonel Trott said. “Drivers are encouraged to obey the speed limit, don’t drive distracted, aggressive or reckless, and above all, don’t drink and drive.”

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) also supports this traffic safety campaign and will promote the initiative on the Interstate 40 dynamic message boards.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, TDOT will also suspend lane closures beginning at Noon on Wednesday, Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1.

In addition to the I-40 Challenge, the THP will also conduct its routine Thanksgiving holiday enforcement campaign across the state.  During last year’s 120-hour holiday period, there were 12 people killed in nine fatal crashes in Tennessee.  Two of the traffic fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes, while six of the vehicular deaths were unrestrained.

“Our state’s seat belt usage rate is at an all-time high of 87.7 percent,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. “However, we still have far too many people who do not buckle up. Half of our state’s traffic fatalities are unrestrained vehicle occupants.  That is unacceptable.”

Director Poole noted that educating the public about the importance of seat belts and the work of state troopers and local law enforcement officers during the upcoming holidays will make a difference on Tennessee roadways.

State law enforcement officials have also seen an eight percent decline in alcohol-related crashes this year, compared to this same time last year. Colonel Trott believes the agency’s DUI enforcement has helped reduce the number of impaired driving crashes across the state.

In 2014, Tennessee state troopers have arrested 7,322 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving, compared to 5,537 DUI arrests this same time last year.  That’s a 32 percent increase.

“We have used data and predictive analytics to deploy our resources in the best possible way to prevent tragedies on Tennessee roadways,” Trott remarked.  “I can only hope our traffic safety efforts over the holidays will help us finish the year and our drive to zero fatalities campaign strong.”

The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s checkpoint schedule during the 2014 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 serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.

A List of all of the 2014 THANKSGIVING Checkpoints that are scheduled by the Tennessee Highway patrol.

A look at the final 2013 Thanksgiving Final Stats for traffic fatalities in the 120-hour holiday period.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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