You may have seen the shocking number of traffic fatalities flashing on those digital messaging boards on Tennessee Highways. Right now the number stands at 603. Today, state law enforcement officers kicked off the Booze It and Lose It Campaign, hoping to cut down on that number and save lives.
If you drive down one of the Tennessee's Interstates it's hard to miss the number of traffic fatalities starring you in the face, a number which seems to be growing by the day.
"This year we feel is the most important year because it's right now, and we need to make sure we get this number down," said Kendell Poole, Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety director.
According to safety officials, 31 percent of all traffic fatalities across the country are because of impaired drivers. There have been 603 traffic fatalities so far on Tennessee roads.
"We cannot bring back those lives that have been lost, but every impaired driver we can take off the roadways will make it safer for everyone to travel," said Tony Burnett, liaison for the Governor's Highway Safety Office. "Of those fatalities, about 50 percent were not wearing seatbelts, that's not acceptable."
Law enforcement agencies from all over the state gathered in Murfreesboro to kick off this year's Booze It and Lose It Campaign.
"One fatality, any fatality, is too many," Murfreesboro Police Chief Glenn Chrisman said.
So far this year, traffic fatalities on Tennessee roads are up, 29 ahead of last year, according to safety officials.
District Attorney Bill Whitesell said years ago impaired driving was a social issue, but now it's a crime.
"A person who is killed by a drunk driver is just as dead as one killed by a bullet. It's just as painful for the family of the victim," Whitesell said.
It's not just driving under the influence of alcohol; safety officials are calling drug impaired driving an epidemic.
"Drug impaired driving is at an all-time high now, whether we're talking about illegal drugs or whether we're talking about prescription drugs," Poole said.
Law enforcement officials are sending a clear message to those who chose to drive while impaired.
"We will stop you, we will arrest you, and you will go to jail," Burnett said.
Tennessee has seen a 30 percent reduction in traffic fatalities over the past seven years. Last year there was a record low of 956.
The Governor's Highway Safety Office Booze It and Lose It Campaign begins tomorrow and runs through the Labor Day Weekend.
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