Categories
Press Releases

State to Display Highway Fatality Numbers on Weekly Basis

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation; January 2, 2013:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will continue to display fatality messages on its overhead Dynamic Message Signs, but will do so on a weekly basis rather than daily. TDOT began displaying the fatality numbers on the signs in April 2012 after seeing a sharp increase in fatalities in the first quarter of the year.

“We feel the fatality messages have been extremely successful in increasing awareness about highway deaths across the state this year, and may have helped us stop the dramatic increase we saw early in 2012,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “We have also heard from drivers who say the messages have caused them to make positive changes in their driving behavior.”

While somewhat controversial, the fatality messages have garnered mostly positive responses from Tennessee motorists. A Franklin, TN man emailed to say the signs made an impression on him and his friends, “I have to tell you that none of us ever wore seat belts until we saw those signs. We are all in our 50s and did not grow up wearing seatbelts. Since we saw your signs, we kid each other on how ALL of us always wear them now. You may think people are not paying attention because fatalities are up, but I have talked to so many people that have changed their seatbelt wearing habits since you put those signs up. Thank you.”

TDOT will also continue to run safety messages targeted at specific issues like texting while driving, drowsy driving, and driving under the influence.

Categories
Liberty and Justice News

Traffic Camera Legislation Promised, But Not Before April

The House sponsor of a proposal to regulate red-light traffic cameras made assurances this week that he’ll try to pass some form of the bill this year.

However, nobody should expect any legislative action for another six weeks, said Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap.

He made the announcement Tuesday as he asked the Public Safety Subcommittee to forward the current version of the bill to the full House Transportation Committee.

Harmon said he wants to sit on the bill until April 1 so that agencies and groups like the Department of Safety, Department of Transportation, the Municipal League, sheriff and police chief associations and traffic engineers can attempt reaching an agreement on a final version.

Whatever they come up with will be made available well enough in advance so lawmakers can study it before having to vote on the bill, said Harmon.

Harmon said if the group does not finalize recommendations by April 1, he’ll push all bills related to traffic cameras.

“If that’s not putting the pressure on, I don’t know what,” he continued. “I’m disappointed we can’t move this bill as-is, to be honest with you.”

Rep. Chad Faulkner, R-Luttrell, asked Harmon if he’s fully committed “to do something after April 1.”

“If I do not have something brought to this committee by April 1, I’ll be asking you pass the bill I had originally without their recommendations,” Harmon responded.

Under Harmon’s current proposal, no government would be allowed to enter into, or renew, a contract with a private red-light camera vendor for two years, except for the traffic camera on Hixson Pike in Chattanooga. In addition, fines for first time violators would be reduced from $50 to $10.

In the end, the legislation could hinge on a state attorney general’s opinion Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport has requested.

Among Shipley’s questions for the Tennessee Department of Justice:

  • Do alleged red-light violators have a right to confront their accusers, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
  • Do the camera systems replace the presumption of innocence with the presumption of guilt?
  • Do the systems create a lack of uniformity in traffic laws throughout the state, which could potentially create a lack of equal protection?

Shipley, who submitted the requested opinion on January 9, said he’s received no word as to when the opinion will be delivered.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General Robert Cooper declined questions, saying all requested opinions are “confidential” until they are released on their web site.

Shipley, who said red-light camera systems are operating in his Kingsport-area district, indicated he’s neutral on whether or not they ought to be banned in Tennessee.

“I’m against them if they are unconstitutional,” he said. “Anecdotally, they have saved lives.”

Categories
Press Releases

Orange Barrels on Holiday Break

State of Tennessee press release, Dec. 18, 2009:

Tennessee Halts Lane Closure Activity for Seasonal Travelers

Rockslide detours demain in place for I-40 in North Carolina & U.S. 64 near Chattanooga

NASHVILLE –Holiday travelers should enjoy a smooth drive through Tennessee during the busy Christmas and New Year’s travel holiday. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.

No lane temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 23 through 6:00 a.m. on Monday, January 4.

“Many Tennesseans traditionally take advantage of the opportunity to travel to visit family and friends during this holiday period,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We want to ensure that motorists traveling in Tennessee arrive at their destinations safely and with as little disruption as possible.”

Except for a few long-term closures which must remain in place for safety, all construction related closures will be suspended. Workers will also be on site in some construction zones. Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, particularly in construction areas. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of $250 to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

“Drivers can expect to see increased law enforcement on the roads throughout the holiday with a particular focus on stopping drivers who are impaired,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “We want everyone to have a safe holiday so remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit and don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve had anything to drink.”

AAA predicts holiday travel will increase 3% in Tennessee. An estimated 1.3 million are expected to travel by automobile in the volunteer state and another 40,000 are anticipated to travel by air for a total of 1.46 million travelers. Across the U.S. 87.7 million are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this year.

Motorists in the eastern part of Tennessee will have to detour around two rockslides that have closed I-40 in North Carolina and U.S. 64 in Polk County, Tennessee near Chattanooga. Motorists can find more information on both rockslides, including detours, by visiting the TDOT website.

For up-to-date travel information, motorists may call 511 from any land line or cellular phone or visit. TDOT is also on Twitter. Click here for statewide travel Tweets. Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. Drivers should “Know before you go!” and check traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.