Tag Archives: traffic

TDOT worker killed in Crockett County

News release from Department of Transportation
CROCKETT COUNTY, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Transportation is mourning the loss of a worker fatally injured (Wednesday).

James “Pee Wee” Hopkins, an Operations Technician, was flagging traffic around a maintenance crew when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle. No other TDOT workers were injured. The crash is under investigation. Continue reading

‘Slowpoke bill’ goes to the governor

The state Senate gave final legislative approval Monday to the so-called “slowpoke” bill, prohibiting driving — except for passing — in the left lane of highways with at least three lanes in each direction, with certain exceptions.

Further from the News Sentinel:

The bill won Senate approval 21-7, despite arguments that drivers already can be charged with impeding traffic in such situations. It won House approval 69-13 on March 7 and now goes to the governor, who’s likely to sign it into law.

Issuing tickets will be up to the discretion of state troopers and police officers. A violation will be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of only $50.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the bill applies only to highways with six or more lanes. “This is to cut down on road rage. A lot of people pull in the left-hand lane and just stay there. People pull up behind them and it causes traffic to line up. This bill is an effort to keep people out of the left-hand lane on six-lane highways.”

The law won’t apply in these circumstances: when the volume of traffic doesn’t permit safe merging into a non-passing lane; when inclement weather or a traffic control device makes it necessary to drive in the passing lane; when obstructions or hazards exist in a non-passing lane; when avoiding traffic moving onto the highway from a merging lane; when highway design makes it necessary to drive in the passing lane to exit or turn left; to emergency vehicles engaged in official duties, or to vehicles engaged in highway maintenance and construction.

House votes to enhance penalty for texting while driving

The state House narrowly approved a bill Monday night to increase the penalty for texting and driving in Tennessee. The Senate is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Under current Tennessee law, a driver using a hand-held mobile phone or personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message while his or her vehicle is in motion is considered a “non-moving” violation subject to a fine of up to $50 and court costs of up to $10. Using a hands-free function to text is not considered a violation of the law.

House Bill 1511, by Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, would make texting while driving a moving violation with the same level of fine but with the addition of four points against a driver’s record and mandatory attendance and completion of a driver’s education course. The points are the same those assessed for careless or negligent driving. The state suspends the driver’s license of drivers who amass 12 points a year.

Points may also result in an increase in the driver’s insurance premium.

The bill won approval on a 51-36 vote — only one vote more than the 50 required for passage in the 99-member House.

Survey: Nashville is congested: Knoxville is not

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new survey says Nashville has some of the biggest traffic snarls in the nation and the congestion is only getting worse. Knoxville, however, was ranked as having one of the smoothest commutes in major cities in the country. The survey was conducted by TomTom, the technology company that makes GPS-navigation devices.

The survey ranked Nashville as the 19th most congested city in America, and showed a 2 percent increase in congestion since 2015. Los Angeles was ranked No. 1 in terms of traffic snarls.

Memphis was ranked No. 41.

The report found that Knoxville drivers spent less time in traffic jams than any of the 71 U.S. cities that were ranked in TomTom’s Annual Traffic Index, and congestion had gone down by 2 percent in the last year.

Ramsey pans ban on cell phones while driving

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he opposes an effort to make it a crime to speak on handheld phones while driving in Tennessee.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. of Elizabethton would make it a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine to use a mobile phone while driving. Drivers would still be able to use hands-free devices to make calls.

Ramsey said the state’s ban on texting while driving goes far enough. He said distracted driving is already a traffic offense in Tennessee.

The House version of the bill advanced out of the Transportation Committee on Tuesday after a contentious debate. It would have to clear the House Criminal Justice Committee before heading for the floor.

The Senate Transpiration Committee takes up the bill next week.

Note: The bill is HB1566, sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, in the Senate.

‘Slowpoke’ law speeds toward passage

Rep. Dan Howell’s proposed “slowpoke law” (HB1416, as amended) has sped through House committees and awaits a floor vote Monday, reports the Times-Free Press.

Howell said he wants to promote safety and reduce “congestion, driver frustration and road rage” by updating state traffic law. His bill says motorists may not drive in the passing lane on interstates or divided highways with at least three lanes except to pass.

Howell said the idea is that motorists in a passing lane cannot impede the flow of traffic. They must move to the right if possible, even if they’re going the speed limit and the vehicles behind them are speeding.

“If you’re in the left lane of a three-lane highway and you’re not there to pass and if you’re impeding the flow of traffic, an officer has the option of writing you a ticket,” Howell said. “This bill does not address speed limits. It addresses the normal flow.”

…The slowpoke law would not apply when traffic volume doesn’t permit a driver to safely merge right or when nasty weather or traffic control devices make it necessary to stay in the passing lane. The same goes for avoiding traffic moving onto the highway from an acceleration or merging lane.

The General Assembly is filled with lawmakers who cope with Tennessee roads and drivers during their weekly commutes to and from the state Capitol in Nashville.

Howell’s bill whizzed through House subcommittees and full committees.

“I’ll have to say I’ve had tremendous interest from my colleagues,” he said. “Everyone who stops me in the hall and talks to me says, ‘I love that bill.’ And that’s on both sides of the aisle.”

“Officially, we have deferred on the bill,” Col. Tracy Trott of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told House Transportation Subcommittee members last month. “We really don’t have any concerns about it. We see that congestion is a problem on our interstates. More people are choosing to drive in the left lane without passing vehicles.”

Trott said he experiences that in his travels, too.

Legislator would ban cell phone talking while driving

News release from Rep. John Holsclaw
(NASHVILLE) — Tennessee already has laws on the books banning texting while driving, but the legislature will soon consider banning talking on a cell phone while driving, unless it is hands-free.

Under legislation soon to be filed by State Representative John Holsclaw (R–Elizabethton), drivers would no longer be able to legally talk and drive using a handheld cellphone, but could still use the phone if it is in hands-free mode.

The use of cellphones while driving has long been a source of contention not only in Tennessee, but across the nation. Currently, talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is completely banned in 14 states and Washington, D.C. The use of cellphones by those with driver permits is restricted in 37 states and D.C. Text messaging is banned in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Right now in Tennessee, adults can still hold their phones and drive at the same time, as long as they are not texting or emailing. However, law enforcement officials have said it is almost impossible to enforce the texting ban since drivers can still lawfully hold a cellphone while driving.

In 2015 alone, 1,336 car crashes in Tennessee have been attributed to distracted driving due to cellphone usage.
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Lawmaker proposes traffic tickets for slow pokes

State Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, is proposing a new traffic offense through what he calls a “slow poke law,” reports The Tennessean. It targets motorists driving too slow in a passing lane and Howell says he sees lots of them driving from his Bradley County home to Nashville.

“There are a lot of people who will get in the left-hand lane on the interstate, set the cruise and they never look in the rearview mirror,” said Howell, a Republican.

…Howell’s bill (HB1416) would make it illegal for anyone to drive in the passing lane of a highway unless that person is actually passing another vehicle. There are plenty of exceptions and caveats: The road would have to be a three-lane highway, and the law would apply only when weather and traffic permitted.

There are similar laws in other states — hundreds of drivers in Georgia have been cited since the law took effect this year, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. Howell believes such a law in Tennessee will keep some of the busiest highways around the state’s largest cities moving and safe.

“Basically, it’s to reduce road rage and reduce congestion on our interstates,” Howell said.

Violators would face a Class C misdemeanor, the same citation associated with a speeding ticket, and a $50 fine.

THP defends shifting troopers to urban areas

Excerpts from a Dyersburg State-Gazette report on Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott’s meeting last week with officials, including state Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, who were concerned about patrol policy of focusing enforcement in more urban areas:

The road to Thursday’s meeting began with a letter sent by (Dyersburg Alderman Bob) Kirk… to Commissioner Bill Gibbons of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. In his letter to Gibbons, Kirk was concerned about the amount of coverage being provided by the THP in the city compared to the county. “The city has adequate resources to provide coverage for law enforcement within the corporate limits,” Kirk wrote.

…”Stopping DUI’s is our No.1 priority because innocent people get killed by drunk drivers. In the years I’ve been the colonel, we’ve increased our DUI enforcement by 140 percent and we’ve lowered our fatality rate in Tennessee from 28 percent down to 18 percent,” added Trott… (U)nder his leadership, the DUI arrests have increased from 3,300 a year before he took over, to more than 8,000 a year today.

…The THP went from an agency that wrote 30,000 seatbelt tickets a year, to one writing over 100,000 citations in 2014, a 225 percent increase. The emphasis on ensuring drivers were wearing seat belts had an immediate impact according to Trott.

…”Traditionally, throughout my 37-year career, we’ve stayed out in the rural areas. The problem with that is if you station a trooper on Hwy.51, he might see 25 to 50 cars an hour. If I bring him in here close to the populated areas, he might see 600 cars an hour and be able to alter the behavior of those people more effectively than he can seeing 50 cars an hour, especially when it comes to impaired driving and not wearing their seat belts.”

…”Most towns and cities I’ve been privileged to communicate with have welcomed us with open arms. I know the chief and the sheriff well, and they don’t have any problem with us working in the populated areas.

“Every time we do a special operation, we talk to the chief or the sheriff. We’re not asking for permission, because we don’t need it, frankly. But, as a professional courtesy, we want them to know that we are coming into their jurisdiction… We want to work with local law enforcement to help them with their traffic problems.”

… “I’m going to be very frank and honest with you on this. You are the first people to complain about what we are doing, and I really don’t understand it because we are trying to help save people’s lives that live here… I’ve looked at the activity level here and.. the activity level is not that extreme. We ended up writing 268 tickets, 134 of those were seatbelt tickets at $10 fines… I have some operations that write over 1,000 tickets a day. If you’re complaining about this level of enforcement then you really haven’t seen anything as far as we’re concerned.”

Kirk explained that he has received several phones call from citizens wondering why there appeared to be such an increase in drivers being pulled over throughout the city… “When you come into a heavily populated, heavy traffic area, and start writing a lot of tickets but you don’t see any troopers out on the roads then it raises the concern of what is going on,” said Kirk.

Trott told Kirk he understood his concerns, but that the strategy of the THP had changed…. “We don’t have any plans to change our strategy at all. As long as it works, then we’re going to continue doing what we are doing. Our bottom line is to save lives, and if someone can show me a better way, then we’ll use it.”

Report says TN has more gun fatalities than traffic fatalities

News release from Violence Policy Center:
Washington, DC — With the National Rifle Association annual meeting opening in Nashville on Friday, a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) finds that gun deaths surpassed motor vehicle deaths in Tennessee and 16 other states, along with the District of Columbia.

The VPC analysis refers to gun deaths and motor vehicle deaths in 2013, the most recent year for which comprehensive state-level data is available. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The analysis found that in 2013, there were 17 states where there were more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia.

More than 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third of American households have a gun. Americans’ exposure to motor vehicles vastly outweighs their exposure to firearms. Yet nationwide, there were 33,636 gun deaths and 35,612 motor vehicle deaths in 2013.

In Tennessee, the latest data available shows 94 percent of households have a car and 46 percent of households have a gun. Yet even though motor vehicles are far more prevalent than guns, there were 1,030 gun deaths and 1,027 motor vehicle deaths in Tennessee in 2013.
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