“People are not just a number or a piece of data. Each fatal crash we have in Bradley County changes lives,” said Capt. W.G. Campbell of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
Campbell takes a fatal crash personally.
With the upcoming busy holiday travel times of Thanksgiving and Christmas, officials continue to stress the importance of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and anyone in or on a motorized vehicle to pay attention, slow down and buckle up.
“There is a name associated with each fatality we have and I apologize, but I am very passionate about life and how it can needlessly end for someone due to careless or reckless driving,” Campbell said.
“Each person who dies as the result of an auto-related accident has a family — they may be a son or daughter, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, or just a friend — but they have a name,” Campbell explained.
Tragedy can happen in a split second.
“Lives can be changed forever and it just takes that one small mistake,” Campbell said.
“You didn’t buckle up or you didn’t make sure your passengers were buckled — remember, they are your responsibility as the driver. You got a phone call or text while driving, you dropped something in the floorboard of your car or you may have been drinking and climbed behind the wheel of a car. There are so many things that can go wrong and data-wise, you become a statistic,” Campbell said.
“Each number represents a name and we have too many names of people who didn’t have to die,” he said.
Statewide, 841 people have died this year on Tennessee’s roadways.
Five names were added to Bradley County’s list of fatalities this year.
Bradley County continues to work to decrease fatal or life-changing traffic accidents, resulting in leading the state in traffic-related fatality reduction this year.
“Even though we are down in numbers, these are still people who died. It affected their families and friends. Even losing one life to a traffic accident is too many. Prevention is the key. Good driver education, paying attention, slowing down, making sure all safety precautions and equipment is in place… all these simple things could save your life or the life of a loved one,” Campbell said.
Sheriff Jim Ruth instituted a program a few years ago and named it “Campaign-Lifesaver.”
Since then, driver awareness education and other factors have resulted in the reduction of crashes and crash fatalities.
Earlier this year, Tennessee Highway Patrol took efforts further by watching drivers on Interstate 75 in Bradley County.
They observed habits such as following too closely to other vehicles and one of the most prominent causes of crashes today … drivers who use text messaging.
“This is a part of our ‘Stay Alive — on Interstate 75’ campaign,” Lt. John Harmon explained in the spring this year.
Distracted driving has increased and when coupled with the inattention and speed, can be deadly.
THP’s trooper Gordon Roberts piloted an 18-wheeler along the interstate system.
Within minutes of climbing into the cab and entering the on-ramp at Paul Huff Parkway, one driver of a passenger car was pulled over and ticketed.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott recently released preliminary data showing decreases in the state-wide number of alcohol-related crashes, and the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes to date in 2013, compared to this time last year.
A total of 172 individuals have died in alcohol-related crashes through Oct. 16, compared to 252 at this time in 2012 (a drop of 31.7 percent). To date, there has been a 10.7 percent decline in total alcohol-related crashes this year.
“The THP has taken a strategic and data driven approach this year to DUI enforcement efforts, that has resulted in 5,039 arrests for driving under the influence through Oct.16. That is a 10 percent increase over the number of DUI arrests made this time last year (4,578),” according to officials with THP.
DUI enforcement by all local law enforcement agencies, increased saturation patrols, Tennessee Highway Patrol checkpoints and just plain hard work are attributed to the reduction in incidents, according to Campbell.
“Please remember that data is crucial to finding where we need to concentrate our overall effort, but never forget that crash victims have names,” Campbell said. “Our wish is to have no fatality data in Bradley County to add to the Tennessee database.”