Speeders beware: Operation Southern Shield is looking for you

Police lights

Weeklong targeted enforcement campaign aims to crack down on dangerous drivers

Drivers moving through the southeast this week maybe seeing increased police patrols. It’s part of Operation Southern Shield, which kicked off July 17 in areas such as Lowndes County, GA. Despite some criticism that the operation is a way to increase revenue, state police troopers have started making the rounds in the county to reduce speeding, as stated in a report by WCTV Eyewitness News. The same report quoted Jeremy Kinsey, a Georgia State Patrol Trooper, talking about the increase in fatalities related to speed violations – nearly doubling in his 20 years on the job.

The Georgia State Patrol (GSP) said it has statistics on its side. GSP claimed that for the year 2016, more than 200 fatalities occurred in the state of Georgia. It was alarming enough for these troopers to endure the negative feedback people threw against Operation Southern Shield.

The initiative was dubbed Operation Southern Shield as it covers Georgia and other southern states including Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. This speed watch initiative will go on for a week. But for drivers, how fast is too fast?

“Drivers who exceed the posted speed limit by 10 miles an hour or more increase their chances of being in a crash because the faster speeds reduce their reaction times and ability to stop suddenly,” Harris Blackwood, director of Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, told WRCTV.

Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Research, Planning and Development Division provided a table of traffic fatalities that occurred within the first half of 2016 and the first half of 2017 for comparison purposes.

Thirty-eight teen drivers have been involved in fatal accidents in Tennessee so far this compared to 53 in all of 2016. This served as a stark contrast to the data involving drivers aged 65 and above. Speed-related accidents for the first half of 2017 involving senior drivers numbered 128, up slightly from the first half of 2016’s 126.

In terms of land use, these statistics showed how there are more speed-related incidents in the rural counties of Tennessee. For the first half of 2016, 291 reported incidents occurred in the rural counties as opposed to 254 reported incidents in urban counties. As for the first half of this year, speed-related incidents in rural areas are at 290 compared to the 243 speed-related incidents in urban areas.

It gets alarming how large vehicles get tallied in this Tennessee-centered report when comparing the ratio of accidents between large trucks and buses. For the first half of 2016, for every bus that got into a vehicular speed-related accident in Tennessee, 53 trucks get involved in one. For the first half of 2017, for every bus involved in a vehicular accident in Tennessee, 57 trucks were involved. And when it comes to large vehicles, their drivers find it harder to step on the brakes in time as the vehicles’ full body weight carries the momentum forward in a frightening way. Scenarios involving big trucks and buses escalated to levels that would push the state government of Tennessee to join Operation Southern Shield.

Sometimes, fatal accidents had to happen involving trucks before local officials would take a closer look at these speed-related issues. ABC 3340 reported on accident that happened July 7 at the Choccolocco Road intersection in the City of Anniston, AL. Investigators revealed that the truck involved in the multiple-vehicle crash did not have brakes.

This pushed Millie Harris, an Anniston Councilwoman, to involve the city government. The incident is the fourth fatality occurring at the Choccolocco Road intersection. Police have increased patrols in the area until a more permanent solution can be found.

It doesn’t help that another crash occurred this time in Blount County, AL, on July 14. According to AL.com, the crash at the intersection of Alabama 79 involved a Freightliner semi-truck and a 2013 Mazda Miata driven by Michael Carpick. A native of Hoover, AL, Carpick, 79, died on the spot as a result of the three-vehicle crash. The cause of the crash has yet to be reported.

As Operation Southern Shield continues across five states, troopers will be on the lookout for speeders.  Director Gene Spaulding of the Florida Highway Patrol told WWSB My Suncoast in an interview that “troopers will take appropriate enforcement action on those drivers who put themselves and others in danger.”

In addition to speeders, troopers will also be looking for impaired and distracted drivers.