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Success breeds more arrests?

For most people, driving a car is one of the most dangerous activities in which they participate. If you are not a logger, commercial fisherman or other high risk worker, driving to the store, your job or school is probably the most dangerous thing you do every day.

So highway safety and way to lower that risk receive a lot of attention from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and other law enforcement. Last year, according to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation, the preliminary numbers indicated that there were 35 fewer traffic fatalities in Tennessee than in 2013. 

This good news, as it would leave 2014 with the second lowest number of highway deaths for any year since 1963. The head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol attributed this to greater enforcement of DUI and seat belt laws.

He noted that the THP arrested 2,000 more motorists last year than the previous year and he claimed this was responsible for an 18.6 percent drop in fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers.

This is likely to spur the THP and other law enforcement in Tennessee to become even more aggressive in their DUI patrols. And it is also likely to cause more questionable arrests, as they push to increase DUI arrests and reduce traffic fatalities further.

While this may be an admirable goal, more drivers who are not intoxicated may be stopped and questioned or arrested. They may use saturation patrols during holidays or major sporting events when people are likely to drink, and then round up drivers, including those who may have had a drink, but are not drunk.

DUIs carry a negative social stigma and require aggressive representation if you have been stopped and charged inappropriately with a DUI. With troopers stopping more marginal cases, increased arrests provide more opportunity for the law enforcement to make mistakes.

Newschannel9.com, “Tennessee Traffic Deaths On The Decline,” AP, January 10, 2015

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