NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — State law enforcement and safety officials announced ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday the launch of the “Tennessee Safe Travel Challenge” traffic safety initiative. The challenge begins Wednesday with Tennessee Highway Patrol Troopers and partner agencies out on roadways in saturated numbers – plus the halting of some road construction to ease congestion.

The Tennessee Safe Travel Challenge is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 28. Officials say the challenge consists of increased patrols from the THP and our law enforcement partners across the state. THP also shared that if during your travels across Tennessee, to please dial *847 (*THP) if you require highway assistance. This will connect you to a THP dispatcher.

Law enforcement will focus their attention along the Interstate 40 corridor. I-40 spans the length of Tennessee, encompassing 455 miles, and runs 2,555 miles through eight states, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The THP will continue statewide enforcement on all Tennessee roadways during the holiday season.

“Our mission is to prevent traffic deaths, one loss of life is never acceptable,” said Colonel Matt Perry. “Motorists can expect to see an increased presence of troopers during some of the busiest travel days of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is important that we all follow the rules of the road. We can prevent traffic-related injuries and deaths by driving the speed limit, buckling our seat belts, never driving distracted, and never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

No road construction

Tennessee Department of Transportation Mark Nagi says Thanksgiving travelers won’t be delayed by construction on Tennessee roads this holiday.

“What we try to do during those major holidays is to halt all of our major construction-related lane closures. So, starting on Wednesday at noon, going all the way to midnight on the following Sunday after Thanksgiving, we will have those lane closures halted on our interstates and state routes,” Nagi said.

TDOT Commissioner Joe Galbato said Wednesday that the stoppage of road construction was part of the department’s effort to contribute to the safety challenge.

“TDOT is proud to join our safety partners in this effort,” Commissioner Joe Galbato said. “I-40 is one of the most heavily traveled interstate corridors in the nation; that’s why our regional help trucks will be working throughout the holiday weekend to assist with incidents that may occur. And to further prevent congestion, we will not allow lane closures for Construction from Noon on Wednesday, November 24, through midnight, Sunday night, November 28.”

2020 holiday traffic numbers

In 2020, there were 26 crashes on the Wednesday before, and 30 crashes on the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday along I-40 .

One of the crashes was alcohol-related. THP issued 2,209 speeding and 498 seat belt citations and arrested 111 individuals for impaired driving. Over the 108-hour holiday period, there were six fatal crashes, three of the fatalities were alcohol-related, and three people killed were not wearing seat belts.

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on everything we have been blessed with,” said Commissioner Jeff Long. “The Tennessee Highway Patrol will do everything in their power to ensure there’s not an empty seat at your family’s dinner table. We want our citizens and visitors to get to and from their destinations safely.”