News release from Department of Safety:
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott today announced the preliminary number of traffic fatalities on state roadways have decreased by nearly 14 percent (13.8%) for the first six months of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012.
The THP reported 436 people died in traffic crashes in Tennessee from January 1 through June 30, 2013. That is 70 fewer than the 506 vehicular fatalities that occurred during the same dates in 2012. Please note these figures include vehicular fatalities reported by all law enforcement agencies across the state.
Colonel Trott also noted a 10.7 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes investigated by the THP. State Troopers worked 975 impaired driving accidents from January 1 through June 30, 2013, a drop from the 1,092 crashes involving alcohol the previous year during the same time frame.
“DUI enforcement has become one of our agency’s top priorities in the last few years. We have arrested 3,151 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving during the first six months of this year – a 9.8 percent increase from the 2,870 DUI arrests made the first half of 2012,” Colonel Trott said. “Each time we remove a drunk driver from our roadways, we reduce the chance of a serious injury or fatal crash occurring,” he added.
News release from Tennessee Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer today released the three-year transportation program, featuring approximately $1.5 billion in infrastructure investments for 80 individual project phases in 47 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.
Tennessee is one of only five states that do not borrow money to fund transportation projects, and the program continues TDOT’s “pay as you go” philosophy, carrying no debt for any transportation initiatives.
“This program represents a thoughtful, balanced approach to transportation and focuses on expanding economic development opportunities, improving safety and providing important upgrades to our interstate corridors,” Haslam said. “A quality transportation system is critical to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs as well as the continued growth of the state’s economy.”
The three-year, multimodal program funds several improvements to the interstate system, including the addition of truck climbing lanes, interchange projects and the construction of a three-mile stretch of Interstate 69.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A 78-mile stretch of highway that loops south of Nashville and has taken 26 years to finish will ease traffic congestion and be a boost for the economy, state officials said Friday.
Gov. Bill Haslam ceremoniously opened the final portion of state Route 840, which was to start taking on traffic at 6 p.m. Friday. Former Govs. Don Sundquist and Winfield Dunn and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander attended.
It took about $750 million to construct the divided highway that runs from Interstate 40 near Dickson to Interstate 40 near Lebanon.
The project began during the Alexander administration, but the section through Williamson County was slowed by litigation over environmental issues and regulations.
In making light of the lengthy time to build the highway, Transportation Commissioner John Schroer noted some workers spent their entire careers on state Route 840, then quipped, “some children were born during the building of 840 and now they’re working on the project.”
“We have to have some humor in the fact that this has taken a little longer to get done than we would have liked,” he said.
Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/After-26-years-in-the-works-840-highway-complete-4003782.php#ixzz2BLHL4HmC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant has resigned rather than be fired after an investigation revealed misconduct that included having sex while on duty.
The THP announced Wednesday that 45-year-old James Sells resigned following an internal affairs investigation that also found he misused state property and equipment and was negligent in performing his duties.
Sells worked in the criminal investigations division in Cookeville.
It’s one of several recent misconduct incidents involving the THP.
A Cookeville-based trooper fired in June was later indicted on drunken driving and weapons charges, while two colleagues were disciplined for not reporting the incident.
A Bradley County trooper is charged in the accidental shooting death of his 3-year-old granddaughter.
A former Pickett County trooper pleaded guilty in July to having sex with a minor.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said Tuesday that he had to send strong signals early in his tenure of heading the Tennessee Highway Patrol that the election of a new governor would not lead to favoritism for certain troopers.
In a speech to a group of Southeastern law enforcement officials, Gibbons said that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam insisted after his election in 2010 that only performance and merit should influence promotions and assignments.
“I’ll be honest, there was some people who were kind of surprised at that early on,” said Gibbons, who previously served as the top prosecutor in Shelby County.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State troopers will be targeting traffic violators in school zones as classes resume across Tennessee.
The speed limit is 15 mph in school zones and the fine for speeding in such a zone is up to $500. It also is against the law to pass a school bus when it is stopped and loading or unloading passengers; fines for that are no less than $250 and up to $1,000.
In 2011, state troopers issued almost 3,900 citations in school zones, up from 3,200 a year earlier.
THP Col. Tracy Trott said motorists who are distracted, impatient or careless can expect a stiff penalty for driving unsafely in school zones.
Six-hundred thousand children ride school buses in Tennessee.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. made no secret about what he was trying to accomplish when he inserted language into a federal highway bill that takes aim at red-light traffic cameras at busy intersections in Knoxville and other cities across the country. But Mike Collins reports it may have little impact.
The little-noticed provision, part of a $100 billion highway spending package that received final approval in Congress on Friday, bars the use of federal funds to buy, operate or maintain red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement systems.
“Since most highway money, even at the state level, comes from the federal government, and most of the work that is being done locally involves federal money, what hopefully it will mean — and should mean — is that there will be many, many fewer red-light cameras all over the country,” the Knoxville Republican said.
But highway safety advocates and others say the ban is unlikely to have any impact at all.
“There really isn’t any federal funding that goes into any of these programs,” said David Kelly, president and executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for Safer Roads.
In Knoxville, red-light cameras are operated and maintained at 15 intersections by American Traffic Solutions Inc., a Tempe, Ariz.-based contractor that has 3,000 of the devices nationwide. No federal money is used to operate any of the cameras, said Charles Territo, a company spokesman.
A federal highway bill that is expected to receive final approval today in Congress could lead to far fewer red-light traffic cameras across the country, reports Michael Collins.
The legislation, a massive bill that overhauls highway and transit programs, bars the use of federal money to purchase red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement cameras.
“Since most highway money, even at the state level, comes from the federal government, and most of the work that is being done locally involves federal money, what hopefully it will mean — and should mean — is that there will be many, many fewer red-light cameras all over the country,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican.
Duncan said he was able to insert the red-light provision into the final highway bill during negotiations between the House and the Senate.
Duncan serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He also was a member of the House-Senate conference committee that pieced together the final highway package.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the highway bill later today
The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which issues liquor licenses in Tennessee, now has direct access to the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s computer database for accidents related to drunken driving, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
That means the commission will know sooner about any distributor who may be serving underage drinkers or visibly intoxicated ones, officials said Tuesday.
THP Director Col. Tracy Trott and ABC Executive Director Danielle Elks joined others at the Charleston Fire Department on Tuesday to announce the partnership put together by state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.
“You’ve heard the expression ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ Well, where there’s smoke, the ABC special agents can now look for the fire,” Watson said at the news conference.
“This partnership will allow ABC special agents to more quickly gather information regarding alcohol-related traffic accidents,” he said. “This information could lead to further investigations into possible violations of state liquor laws.”
Defense attorney Jim Logan, a Democrat, said he and Watson, a Republican and veteran law enforcement officer, agreed quickly about the need to spread the responsibility beyond the driver.
The Tennessee Department on Transportation has issued its annual state highway map with some innovations.
This year’s map contains a “quick response code,” or QR code, that will allow users to scan and link to TDOT’s mobile web application, TDOT SmartWay Mobile.
“The state map is an important tool for travelers, and this new feature will provide an added convenience by allowing motorists to quickly access real-time traffic information using their smartphones,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “The map is free and is also available at welcome centers and rest areas across the state.”
The 2012 TDOT Tennessee transportation map can be downloaded from the TDOT website at www.tn.gov/tdot/maps.htm. Pre-printed versions of the map can also be ordered from TDOT online at www.tn.gov/tdot/MapOrder/maporder.htm or by mailing a request to the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Map Sales Department, 505 Deadrick St., James K. Polk Building, Suite 300, Nashville, Tenn., 37243.
Individuals may request up to five free maps, and organizations and schools may order up to 100.
The official 2012 map is a joint effort between TDOT and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.