TOP PHOTO: Tennessee Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Clint McKissack was the main speaker at the safe driving event held Friday to address the increase in fatal accidents in Campbell County.
By Charlotte Underwood
CARYVILLE, TN (WLAF) – The Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) held a press conference on Friday in Caryville to address the high number of fatal crashes that occurred in Campbell County in 2021. Multiple local law enforcement agencies were in attendance for the event to promote safe driving tips and information aimed at preventing future crashes and fatalities as part of the THSO’s Fatality Prevention Plan. Extra THP check points and patrols will also be part of this plan during 2022.
According to Tennessee Highway Patrol data, Campbell County had 17 lives lost in fatal crashes/accidents in 2021, which was a significant increase over the single fatality of 2020 and three fatalities in 2019. In 2021, fatal crashes took the lives of 10 drivers, five passengers and two pedestrians.
“This is more than a number. It represents 17 people who lost their life, a loved one, a work colleague, 17 families who lost a loved one,” said THP Public Information Officer Clint McKissack.
“We want to get the word out to the public, we can’t have another repeat of 2021. Telling a family they have lost a loved one to a fatal car crash is one of the most difficult things we as law enforcement have to do; 17 times that was done in 2021,” McKissack said. He said that through THP’s TITAN system, using data collected from accidents, they could at least pinpoint some contributing factors to crashes and recommend safety tips.
“Pay attention to the roadway, do not text and drive or drive distracted or under the influence of intoxicating substances. Obey all traffic laws,” McKissack said. Other recommendations included buckling up every time you get behind the wheel and talking to your loved ones about buckling up and safe driving.
“Pay attention to the roadway, don’t follow too close and never drive impaired” McKissack said.
“We want to address the spike in fatal crashes, we take it personally and we want to lower these number of fatal crashes, and we want to get the word out to the public on how they can help us; obey traffic laws, don’t drive distracted, don’t drive impaired, buckle up, talk to your loved ones and family, about this,” said THSO Director Buddy Lewis.
THP Capt. Stacey Heatherly said this was an important message for all Tennessee citizens to be aware of. “We at the THP are here to save lives on the roadways of Tennessee,” Heatherly said.
Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins said his department had been partnered with the THSO since he had taken office and that it was a good working relationship and that he “appreciated the partnership of THP and all local law enforcement in working towards the joint goal” of making Campbell County’s roads and highways safe for all.
“The goal we all strive for is to have safe roads for the citizens to operate their vehicles on and to abide by the laws to keep them safe. We don’t want to be out giving tickets, but we will if we have to. We don’t want people out driving impaired, speeding, driving distracted or driving without a seatbelt, we’re working together to keep people safe,” Goins said.
He also said the county is undergoing construction in several areas, which has resulted in changes to speed limits and traffic patterns. This has also been a contribution to accidents and reminds how important it is to be aware of your surroundings.
“When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, driving needs to be your only focus, and it takes very little time to buckle up and make sure your family is safely buckled,” Goins said.
He also suggested parents should stress to their kids the importance of never texting and driving or driving distracted or impaired and to always buckle up.
“It’s always a good time to talk to your kids about safe driving, teach them from a young age how important it is,” Goins said.
Speakers at the conference included THSO Director Buddy Lewis, as well as East Tennessee Liasion Derrick Woods, also with THSO. Tennessee Highway Patrol Captain Stacey Heatherly as well as THP Trooper Clint McKissack also spoke, as did Captain J.J. Hatmaker with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/24/2022-6AM