DWI crashes decline here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Mt. PLEASANT, Tenn. - Alcohol related crashes in Marshall County decreased to nearly a third of what they were in 2007, according to figures reported Friday.

Amanda Brown, administrator of the Tennessee traffic safety database for the Governor's Highway Safety Office (GHSO), gave area police officers a sneak peek of information to be released Monday.

"The numbers let us know if what we're doing is working," said Tony Burnett, the GHSO law enforcement liaison for Middle Tennessee.

He introduced Brown during a police luncheon at Mt. Pleasant Grill, where Brown displayed maps to compare counties and show year-to-year changes.

"A lot of the maps look like this because you all are doing good work," Brown said. Two days earlier, Gov. Bill Haslam and state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer awarded $18.1 million in highway safety grants to 332 law enforcement agencies.

In Marshall County, the grants are:

* $15,000 to Lewisburg Police Department for regional network coordination of data collected during police checkpoints looking for drunken drivers;

* $5,000 each for Chapel Hill Police and Marshall County Sheriff's departments for driving while intoxicated checkpoints and increasing highway patrols to suppress dangerous driving; and,

* $4,986 to Cornersville Police Department to continue DWI checkpoints and increase patrol efforts.

The awards include a $52,924 grant to Bedford County Sheriff's Department for alcohol and traffic enforcement and $5,005 to the Bell Buckle Police Department for high visibility law enforcement campaigns.

Burnett was asked about a Chapel Hill checkpoint three weeks ago and one in Cornersville several weeks earlier when no driver was found under the influence of alcohol.

"It's not about how many tickets you can write," the police liaison replied. "It's about saving lives."

Furthermore, Burnett, a former Woodbury Police chief and former Cannon County deputy, likes it when motorists flash headlights to warn drivers about radar patrols because it slows traffic, he said.

GHSO grants pay for police equipment and overtime, he said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds the grants as budgeted by Congress.

Lewisburg Police Capt. Rebeckah Mitchell is the Middle Tennessee Network coordinator. Lewisburg's grant is bigger because she posts data from 19 law enforcement agencies in Marshall, Maury, Giles and Williamson counties after those agencies conduct Click It or Ticket, and Booze It and Lose It campaigns.

Information from those campaigns may be seen Monday on the programs' Web site, www.tntrafficsafety.org.

Data displayed Friday show the following statistics for alcohol related crashes in:

* Marshall County from 2007 through 2011 - 60, 42, 41, 22 and 23;

* Bedford County for the same five years - 77, 83, 68, 71 and 33; and,

* Maury County in those years - 120, 127, 141, 73 and 79.

Meanwhile, Marshall and Bedford counties had three traffic fatalities in 2011. There have been three traffic fatalities in both those counties so far this year. Maury County has had five so far this year. It had 11 traffic fatalities last year.