BY KEN LITTLE
Local enforcement agencies will be out in force as the holiday season continues to gear up.
"We've already started increased patrols. We will be doing it through New Year's Day," Sheriff Steve Burns said.
Safety of the driving public is the primary reason, Burns said.
"We want to keep everyone safe on the roads and cut down on accidents and fatalities," he explained.
Increased patrols serve a dual purpose, the sheriff said. They help cut down impaired and reckless drivers, and also help protect property-owners.
"They will be looking for people breaking into homes and businesses," Burns said. "We're just trying to combine all these things we deal with and keep things safe -- not only keeping drivers safe but their property."
GPD 'IN A CAMPAIGN'
Craig Fillers, Greeneville Police Department assistant chief, said Greeneville officers have already stepped up holiday season enforcement efforts.
"We're in a campaign right now with the Governor's Highway Safety Office to enhance traffic law (enforcement)," Fillers said.
Police officers "are doing all they can to enforce traffic laws," he added.
That includes the seat belt and texting-while-driving laws, along with driving under the influence and other offenses.
"Patrols are being asked to be more vigilant during the holiday period to keep everyone safe and keep the fatality numbers down," Fillers said.
"I just hope everyone has a safe Christmas and a safe holiday," he added.
There were 945 traffic fatalities through Dec. 16 in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP).
That figure compares to 981 fatalities during the same time frame in 2012. The state's 2012 fatality total was 1,019.
Traffic fatalities in Greene County totaled 18 in 2012, down from 20 in 2011, according to figures from the Tennessee Department of Research, Statistics and Analysis.
THP ENFORCEMENT PLANS
The THP plans several local enforcement efforts in coming weeks.
Driver license checkpoints will be conducted the week of Dec. 20 on the Newport Highway -- U.S. 321 -- in Greene County.
"Recognizing the danger presented to the public by unqualified drivers, troopers will concentrate their efforts on vehicles being operated by drivers who would violate the driver license laws of Tennessee," THP Lt. Derrick Watson said in a news release.
The THP will conduct sobriety roadside safety checkpoints the week of Dec. 31 on Blue Springs Parkway.
Seven traffic-related fatalities occurred statewide during the 2013 New Year holiday period that began on Dec. 28, 2012, and ended on Jan. 1, 2013, according to the THP.
Watson said impaired driving kills more than 16,000 people and injures 305,000 others every year in the U.S.
"Troopers will evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. Troopers will target those who would operate a vehicle while impaired and take corrective actions for other violations observed while ensuring the protection of all motorists," Watson said.
He said the sobriety checkpoints "are highly visible and effective tools in the battle against impaired driving."