TENNESSEE (TN Tribune) – On Wednesday, July 21, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Georgia Highway Patrol, Erlanger Health Systems, and other partners to promote “Operation Southern Shield.” The purpose of this regional campaign is to increase traffic safety awareness and enforcement to reduce speeding across the Southeast.
“Speeding endangers everyone on the road,” said NHTSA Regional Administrator Carmen Hayes. “It endangers not only the life of the speeder, but all of the people on the road around them, including other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.”
For more than two decades, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. According to the NHTSA, speeding was a contributing factor in 26 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide in 2018.
“When speed kills, it’s never an accident,” said THSO Director Buddy Lewis. “Every driver has a responsibility to follow speed limits, drive focused, exercise due care, and adhere to all traffic laws.”
According to Tennessee’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network, in 2019, there were 1,136 total traffic fatalities statewide; 180 of those fatalities were related to speeding or aggressive driving behaviors. Last year, there were 1,217 total traffic fatalities statewide; 190 of those fatalities were related to speeding or aggressive driving behaviors.
“Motor vehicle collisions are the second leading cause of injury for Erlanger Health System trauma patients,” said Erlanger Health System Trauma Services Medical Director Robert A. Maxwell, MD. “Factors such as high rates of speed, not using seat belts, and distracted driving all contribute to death and serious injury across all age groups.”
According to the NHTSA, the consequences of speeding are far-ranging. Speeding leads to a greater potential for loss of vehicle control, reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment, and an increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries.
“Losing a friend or loved one to a fatal traffic crash is an extremely painful, life-altering experience which creates a void that can never be filled,” said THP Colonel Matt Perry.  “Please, help us to stop this tragedy from devastating another family.”
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, there were 1,702 traffic fatalities in Georgia last year. Of those fatalities, 285 were speeding-related. This reflects a nine percent increase from the 260 speeding-related fatalities that occurred statewide in 2019.
“Families and friends have lost too many loved ones over the last year in traffic crashes,” said GOHS Director Allen Poole. “We want this week to serve as the starting point for a reversal in the rising number of fatalities on our roads. Speed limits are set for the safety for everyone on the road and selfish drivers who choose to travel at speeds well above the posted limit are a threat not only to themselves but everyone on the road.”
For more information, please contact arriale.tabson@tn.gov.