The 32nd annual Life Savers Conference took place Sept. 4 - 6 and as part of the Law Enforcement Challenge, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office recognized the efforts of police departments including White House, Gallatin and the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office placed first in the 76 to 100 officers category and White House placed second in the 11 to 25 officers category.
The award is based on policies and guidelines, officer training, incentives and recognition, public information and education, enforcement activities and effectiveness of efforts. Participating groups fill out an application and detail their activities for each category. Winners were awarded grant money.
“The dedication of the deputies to save lives on a daily basis through education and enforcement is what’s most important to us,” said Chief Deputy Aaron Pickard. “While we enjoy the designation were proud that we have brought our fatal crashes down so dramatically over the course of the past 10 years.”
Public education is a focus and Pickard said that the sheriff’s office is out teaching at schools every weekly. Topics might include bike and pedestrian safety, graduated driver’s licenses and impaired driving.
They also host and organize Child Safety Day. The event is educational and has driving simulators, a bicycle safety course, DUI course, seat belt convincer along with a petting zoo, face painting and more.
Pickard said that since participating in the challenge, the number of crash fatalities has decreased.
“Not just because of the challenge, but because we are actually monitoring trends to help us,” he said. “…If we see trend, certain drug, impaired driving or distracted driving we try to address that with education first and then after a significant amount of time, we have to transition to enforcement.”
The White House department also has educational events involving matters such as texting while driving and the Hands Free law. The department has placed in the top two in this category since the Challenge’s beginning, according to Sgt. Joel Brisson. Brisson also serves as the Tennessee Highway Safety Office network coordinator for Middle Tennessee. He also credited the award to the city’s seat belt usage rate of 97 percent.
The WHPD was additionally awarded the bicycle and pedestrian award. The sergeant cited the popular greenway system, bike lane on Highway 31W and cross walk system on Tyree Springs Rd. as factors of the recognition.
“It’s state law that you have to stop at a cross walk for a pedestrian, but it’s such a bad area in that little spot,” he said. “We have a state of the art system where people will know when they hit a button and people that are driving down the road will know to stop or at least slow down so people can cross.”
Other specific awards and recognitions include Rookie of the Year, Child Passenger Safety, Impaired Driving Awareness, Underage Alcohol Prevention, Speed Awareness and more.
The GPD was given the Motorcycle Safety Award.
“(The award) says the same thing that we’ve always prided ourselves on - that we’re a very active traffic unit,” said Lt. Bill Vahldiek, who runs the traffic division.
The division has promoted THSO’s ‘Look Twice, Save a Life’ campaign, and spread the message through their sign board throughout the year. It was also used to warn the public about parades and other events.
The department has advanced training for motorcycle officers with events such as the Motorcycle Rodeo, has informational booths about motorcycle safety at festivities such as Square Fest and visits schools.
“Our traffic division is out there all the time, works all the holidays and everything else and on top of that the traffic guys are the ones that actually build the notebook and submit it,” Vahldiek said.
The conference had several sessions for participants and was used as an in-service hour opportunity for some.
According to a TN Department Safety & Homeland Security press release, these departments represent some of the 44 that participated. There was a total of 55 submitted applications and 12 were from Middle Tennessee.