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Safe driving campaign aims to reduce traffic fatalities in Sumner

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Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy speaks at a press conference at Volunteer State Community College announcing the launch of Operation Safe Sumner on March 9. JOSH CROSS

Local and state law enforcement agencies have launched a new safe driving campaign across Sumner County following a spike in traffic-related deaths last year.

As part of Operation Safe Sumner, which kicked off Thursday, speed and messaging trailers have been placed on some of the busiest roadways across the county to make drivers aware of their speed and the consequences of distracted driving. Those areas, along with others, will also have an increased police presence.

Last year, the number of traffic fatalities in Sumner County more than doubled from 10 in 2015 to 23 in 2016, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Among those killed were two adults from Portland and a 3-year-old child who died during a fiery crash on S.R. 386 Christmas night.

"We knew we had a problem and we had to do something to get people's attention," Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy said. "We all have family, they travel these roads and it's up to us to do our best to make them safe. It's up to the citizens to help us do that. We can't do this by ourselves."

So far this year there has been one traffic fatality in Sumner County compared to five during the same time last year, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Statewide, 161 people have died in wrecks during the first three months of 2017.

Despite the decrease, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Miller said there is still progress to be made.

"We push every day for zero (deaths)," Miller said. "We know that there are still families that are hurting because they have lost a loved one to a motor vehicle crash. That is totally unacceptable."

There were 978 injury accidents in across the county last year. The primary causes were following improperly, failure to yield and distracted driving.

Motorists can help increase their safety when traveling by obeying the speed limit, wearing a seat belt, leaving their phone alone and not driving distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said Miller.

While some drivers who get a ticket as a result of Operation Safe Sumner might use social media to complain about being pulled over, Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown said the initiative is about safety and not making more money.

"The reality for us is we want to impact people and save lives," Brown said. "We don't want families to lose people and if that means writing more tickets and catching peoples' attention and it works, (then) we'll take it."

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