Tennessee Highway Patrol cracks down on speeding

Officials from the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced this week to be what they called “Operation Southern Shield,” a more concentrated effort to enforce speed limits across the state of Tennessee.

Lieutenant Richard Garrison of THP said they have been engaged in this program for at least the past six years.

“We encourage self-compliance on all traffic laws and seatbelt usage, year round,” Garrison said.

The measure’s formal name comes from the greater levels of enforcement along Tennessee’s roads throughout the week. He said the week is given a similar level of treatment to holiday weekends due to the increase in summer travel, posting special officers along the roads for the express purpose of catching people speeding on highways.

“THP will have troopers, who are considered ‘Admins,’ working the roads during this week, like we do on holiday weekends,” he said.

Though the “operation” has been an annual program for a number of years, this year’s comes after a series of driving-related regulations coming through the state legislature. The beginning of the month saw the new Hands Free law take effect, which bans just about any physical contact with a cellular device while driving, barring an emergency.

The campaign does not just focus on that speedometer, however. Tennessee’s “slow-poke” law prevents vehicles from driving in the left lane without other vehicles passing on their right.

Garrison said the campaign is meant to raise awareness of their presence on the state’s highways and interstates, hopefully to convince them to slow down before their speed ever becomes a problem.

“Publicizing any enforcement event is educational and a huge deterrent to reckless driving behavior,” Garrison said.

In Tennessee, reckless driving’s legal definition includes any speed over 80 miles per hour, or any speed exceeding 20 over the posted speed limit.

According to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office’s 2018 report, the state experienced 1,040 fatalities in 2017 alone.

According to drivinglaws.com, reckless driving convictions are Class B misdemeanors.

“Convicted drivers are looking at up to six months in jail and a maximum $580 in fines, and any motorist who racks up two reckless driving convictions within a one-year period faces a 12-month license suspension,” they said.

The campaign is in effect until the end of the week.

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