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Officers band together to keep roads safe for summer travel

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: May 23 2013 05:00:40 PM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

It's almost time to pack up the car and hit the road for a summer vacation, but as your eyes stay on the road officers' eyes are staying on you.

FALL BRANCH, Tenn. -

It's almost time to pack up the car and hit the road for a summer vacation, but as your eyes stay on the road, officers' eyes are staying on you.

It's 6,000 miles on the open road for Luverne Ball and Ellen Barnes, making their way from Oklahoma to New York. "The traffic is heavy. It's been real heavy all the way," said Ball.

We learned that's just what's to be expected this time of year. "Now the weather's nice, and people are wanting to get out and go places, and it's good to remember that we've got to think about our safety," said Richard Holt with the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office.    

That's the goal for the next 100 days of summer -- Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky highway officers, along with about a dozen local law enforcement agencies, are collaborating to keep drivers across the region safe. "The purpose of it is just really one thing. We want to reduce injuries and reduce fatalities and make our roadways safe for everybody," said Bob Criswell with the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety.

We found out there are four main targets: cracking down on DUIs, speeding, distracted driving, and seatbelt usage. "I would say seatbelt usage is the number one thing," said First Sgt. M.R. Willis.

"Last year our seatbelt usage for Tennessee was around 83.7 percent. That means about 13 percent are still not buckling up," said Holt.

Statistics are going in the right direction this year. "Out of the first four months of this year, we've seen a 25 percent decrease in fatalities," said Capt. Stephen Street with Tennessee Highway Patrol.

"As of today [Thursday], the fatality total in Kentucky is 203, which is actually 75 fatalities less than the same date in 2012," said Criswell.

Agencies want to keep it that way.

This summer, we're told you'll see more checkpoints. "Driver's license checkpoints, sobriety checkpoints, [and] a new thing that we're using this year are seatbelt checkpoints," said Capt. Street.   

Officers advise drivers obey the law or pay the price. "We don't want you to become the next fatality and statistic," said First Sgnt. Willis.

That's the plan for Ball and Barnes, just hoping to make it to their destination safe and sound. "We're in no hurry. We just want to see it all and do it all," Ball said.

Law enforcement officers also gave us these tips:

Keep an eye out for motorcyclists this time of year; you should always look twice because they can often be hard to spot inside a vehicle.    

Also, move over anytime you see a vehicle on the shoulder of a road if you can do it safely. Otherwise, slow down.