Police step up Hwy. 111 speed enforcement
Mary Jo Denton
Herald-Citizen Staff

COOKEVILLE -- Better slow down on Highway 111 unless you don't mind being ticketed, police say.

"We're saturating that highway in the city limits, trying to stop speeding out there," said Police Chief Bob Terry. "The way people are driving on that road is just too dangerous."

He said many motorists are flying up and down the north/south highway ignoring the speed limit laws.

"If you're driving out there and not doing 75 or 80, you just about get run over," he said. "It's a 55 mph zone in some places, but people are going much faster than that."

He said the police department's Traffic Division began extra patrol and radar speed checking on Highway 111 on Wednesday.

"What we're doing is not about revenue," Chief Terry said. "I want everybody to realize that right now. The revenue from tickets is not enough for that to be the reason. It's a matter of public safety."

All of Highway 111 through the city can be very dangerous due to speeding drivers and other factors, but some areas are more dangerous than others, he said.

"The area at Design Drive where the state eliminated a crossover last year due to all the wrecks that happened there is now a fairly safe place to get off Highway 111, but it's still dangerous due to speeding drivers."

And next to the intersection at Jackson and Willow in downtown Cookeville, where 73 car crashes happened in 2006, it was a Highway 111 intersection -- the one at E. 10th St. -- where the highest number of crashes occurred that year. With 33 crashes, that intersection even topped Jackson and Jefferson and several others in town.

The intersection at Highway 111 and Spring St. also saw 25 crashes, a relatively high number of intersection accidents in 2006, according to Cookeville Police statistics.

According to Sheila Holloway, crime analyst for the Police Dept., a total of 212 vehicle crashes have occurred on or near Highway 111 in the city since 2005, and 64 persons were injured in those crashes. There were 80 in 2005, 85 in 2006, and so far this year, 47, Holloway said.

Those numbers include accidents on the entrance and exit ramps of the highway, she noted.

"Traffic speeds on Highway 111 through the city have reached the point that they can't be ignored, and we're going to focus on doing a better job of enforcing the traffic laws in those areas," Chief Terry said.

And even though the revenue from the speeding tickets is not a factor for the police, Terry stresses, it might well be a good reason for motorists to slow down -- if they know the prices they'll be paying.

Basically, it boils down to the faster you are going when caught, the more you will pay.

According to City Court Clerk Cheryl Chambers, a speeding ticket fine for exceeding the speed limit by one to 10 mph is $65; for exceeding the limit by 11 to 20 mph, $70, and for 21 or more over the limit, $90.

"Also, at the discretion of the officer, a charge of careless or reckless driving may be added when the speed is 21 or more over the limit," Chambers said.

Published August 17, 2007 10:42 AM CDT