THP prepares for busy holiday weekend

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Thirteen people died last Memorial Day weekend during 13 separate crashes on Tennessee roads. Six of the crashes were alcohol-related, according to Tennessee Department of Safety.
   The traditional kickoff to the summer vacation period officially begins at 6 p.m. Friday and continues until midnight Monday. During those 78 hours, all available Tennessee Highway Patrol officers, even those in administrative positions, will be working the roadways, looking for speeders, drunken drivers and seat belt law violators.
   According to THP Col. Jerry Scott, the highway patrol will be aggressively enforcing the rules of the road this weekend. "With so many people out on the highways, we want to make sure everyone gets where they're going safely," Col. Scott said.
   Besides those who died last year in alcohol-related accidents, five out of nine vehicle occupants who were not wearing seat belts also were killed, along with one pedestrian and an ATV rider.
   Tennessee's deadliest Memorial Day weekend was in 1973 when 26 people were killed. The least deadly holiday was in 1992 when six persons died.
   The highway patrol is working once again this year with the Governor's Highway Safety Office and other agencies to implement the "Click It or Ticket" campaign, a statewide educational effort to remind drivers and passengers of the importance of seat belt use.
   Safety Commissioner Denny King said, "We believe people who don't buckle up, and fail to buckle up their children, are showing a reckless disregard for the seat belt law."
   On Monday, Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers kicked off "Safe Trip," a nationwide effort to promote safe driving. The public awareness campaign on tire safety delivers the message: "Safe travel starts with safe tires," which means checking tire pressure before hitting the road.
   "As we approach the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the official start of the summer travel season, we want Tennesseans to realize proper tire maintenance can save lives," Summers said. "Hundreds of people are killed or injured in accidents each year because of improperly inflated tires."
   According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 41,730 people were killed and 3,031,000 were injured on the nation's public roads and highways in the year 2001.
   A NHTSA study found that one out of every four passenger cars on U.S. roadways is driving with one or more substantially underinflated tires, while 27 percent of cars and 32 percent of vans, pickups and sport-utility vehicles had at least one underinflated tire. Eight percent of light trucks and 3 percent of cars had all four tires underinflated.
   The "Safe Trip" campaign features television and radio ads which will air nationwide during the three peak summer travel holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
   The ads warn drivers to make sure they aren't putting themselves and their families at risk, because "even if your tires look fine, it doesn't mean they're properly inflated -- so take a minute to check them out."
   Drivers are encouraged to visit www.safetrip.org to find out more about tire safety and the importance of proper tire inflation.