The Tennessee Department of Safety announced Tuesday that the state will be participating in a traffic initiative newly dubbed Operation Southern Slow Down.
From July 18-24, this speed enforcement and education campaign, formerly called Operation Southern Shield, returns in five southeastern states: Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
“Speeding drivers are almost three times more likely to be involved in fatal or serious-injury crashes,” said Buddy Lewis, director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety. “Speeding increases the risk of losing control of your vehicle and threatens the safety of everyone around you. All we ask is for voluntary compliance to ensure everyone can make it home safely.”
According to the Tennessee Highway Safety office, troopers and local law enforcement officers will conduct concentrated enforcement on interstates and state highways in these five states for the entire week in a team effort to stop the increase in drivers traveling at speeds “well above” the legal limit.
Law enforcement agencies in the southeast and across the nation have reportedly seen a substantial increase in the number of vehicles traveling at speeds above 100 miles per hour in the last two years.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. has seen an increase in overall traffic fatalities and speed-related traffic deaths in the last two years. Even though there was a 22% decline in total traffic crashes in the country in 2020 compared to 2019 and an 11% decrease in the number miles traveled in the country in 2020 compared to the previous year, the number of persons killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2020 increased by 6.6% compared to 2019.
Speed was a factor in 29% of total traffic fatalities in the United States in 2020, a 3% increase from the previous year. The number of people killed in crashes involving speeding increased by 17% in 2020 compared to 2019.
Almost one out of every three speeding drivers involved in a fatal crash in the U.S. in 2020 did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of the crash, and 53% of speeding drivers who were involved in speeding crashes in the U.S. that year were not wearing seat belts.
Federal highway safety data shows that the youngest drivers on the road are involved in speed-related fatal crashes more than any other age group.
Thirty-five percent of male drivers and 18% of female drivers in the 15-to-20-year-old age group were involved in fatal crashes nationwide in 2020.
In the southeast, the number of people killed in speed-related crashes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee increased by 14% in 2020 compared to 2019. There were 1,611 persons killed in traffic crashes that involved speeding in these five states in 2020 and 1,418 persons killed in crashes involving speeding the prior year.
Operation Southern Slow Down began in 2017 when the five states in NHTSA’s Region 4 decided to hold a week-long joint speed enforcement and education campaign in the third week of July.
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office said that over a four-year period from 2017 through 2020, Operation Southern Slow Down has seen a 2% reduction in traffic deaths in the five states from the week before to the week of the enforcement and education campaign and a 14% reduction in speed-related traffic deaths from the week before to the week of Operation Southern Slow Down.