More driving, more deaths buy more cops, more stops - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

More driving, more deaths buy more cops, more stops

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MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Few in Marion County could forget the heartbreak of Andrew and Adam Hughes; brothers, killed two years ago when their car ran off Highway 41 in a curve almost two years ago.

"The teen driving group is the one that concerns us most," says Clint Shrum, of the Governor's Highway Safety Office. "Especially with proms and graduations coming."

Monday, the GHSO journeyed to Jasper, to tell police officers and sheriff's deputies from throughout the Cumberland region, that the warmest winter in forty years brought out drivers in droves, and made the roads more dangerous.

Thirty-eight more people have lost their lives on Tennessee roads this year, compared to the same period last year; 23 of those deaths in March alone. "I wasn't aware that we were third in the state for speeding, and for alcohol-related deaths," Grundy County Chief Deputy Scott Hampton says.

A small department will be even more taxed, when the Thunder on the Rock concert and motorcycle rally hits Grundy County in late May. "We have to have citizen's help," Hampton says. "They have got to pay attention."

A number of high schools have staged mock crashes to try to 'scare' students straight.

But the GHSO is going one better. "We're calling it 'More Cops, More Stops,'" Shrum says. "Starting Friday night, you will see significantly more law enforcement on the highways."

Federal and state grants money will cover much of the cost.

It means the law could be less likely to let you off with a warning.  Of the 256 people killed on Tennessee roads this year, more than 100 drivers or passengers weren't wearing seat belts.
Getting caught, unbuckled, likely will buy you a fine.

"This is all about changing behavior," Shrum says. "And sometimes, that means you get bitten."
Many law officers believe that 'giving breaks' is counter-productive. "It can be frustrating," says Capt. Charles Lowery, of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. "Judges want to be compassionate, we understand that. But we're the ones who have to investigate the fatalities."

Upon Lowery's request, Shrum has agreed to ask the GHSO to publicize targeted enforcements well in advance, to give judges forewarning when court dockets will be clogged with cited drivers.

Two such efforts are 'Hands Across the Border'; checkpoints targeting drivers on Tennessee's state lines with Alabama and Georgia.

The Alabama-line enforcement will be set up in Marion County May 24.  The Georgia-line checkpoint will go up on Rossville Blvd. in Hamilton County June 1.

"We have got to get this under control," Shrum says. "Or we'll end the year with nearly a hundred more dead than last year."

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