BY O.J. EARLY
The number of speeding-related crashes has declined over the last two years in Greene County, statistics from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security show.
The data show a steady decline in the number of wrecks caused by speeding over the last five years in the county.
In 2008, 127 accidents occurred as a result of speeding, state figures show. Last year, 88 wrecks were caused by motorists driving too fast.
The number of overall traffic crashes in the county, though, has remained fairly steady over the last five years.
BYPASS TRAFFIC SLOWED
According to Greeneville Police Chief Terry Cannon, it's no surprise that crashes caused by speeding are down.
"About two-and-a-half years ago the board gave me two police officers to work to slow the speed down," the chief said.
"We were talking about putting red light cameras in, and the public spoke and said they would rather talk to a police officer."
Since then, Cannon said, two unmarked police cruisers have patrolled U.S. Highway 11E in Greeneville. And the officers have been successful in stopping fast-moving drivers, he added.
"We have slowed the bypass down considerably," Cannon said.
For the last several months, County Sheriff Steve Burns said his department has placed an emphasis on stopping a large number of burglaries in the county.
Having more cruisers on patrol may have indirectly helped slow would-be speeders, Burns said.
"If anything, it's been our increase in visibility because of all the burglaries and thefts that are happening," Burns said.
"We don't have the time to devote to actual traffic stops like a police department does."
The sheriff added: "That's why we're trying to find a way to be creative and increase visibility."
In the future, though, Burns hopes his department can focus more attention on stopping motorists who drive recklessly.
"We feel like we're going to be awarded a governor's highway safety grant in the future so that we can work more DUIs and other traffic accidents," he said.
While traffic accidents can happen anywhere, some local spots are more prone to accidents, Burns and Cannon said.
In Greeneville, many accidents occur at the intersection of Justis Drive and U.S. 11E, Cannon said.
Another high-accident spot is the intersection of U.S. 11E with North Main Street and the Kingsport Highway (Tenn. Rt. 93), he said.
"We've had a lot of rear-enders there," Cannon explained.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) identified the intersection as a safety concern, and began construction of a traffic light there in late 2012.
The project was completed this spring.
In the county, two areas have proven to be prime spots for accidents, Burns said: the intersection of Bridge Burners Blvd. and U.S. 11E and along U.S. 11E at the intersection with Chuckey Pike and Rheatown Road.
TDOT is now in the process of improving safety and both sites.
"The fact that Greene County has over 1,300 miles of roads and a lot of them are narrow, country roads ... you'll have some accidents," Burns said. "It can be anywhere."
* Alcohol-related crashes in the county have dropped since 2008, but have remained fairly steady since 2009.
* Distracted-driving-related crashes have slightly increased since 2008.
* Since 2008, the county has averaged 1,924 accidents a year, with 16 fatalities and 573 injuries.