'We leave a part of ourselves with that family:' THP trooper describes notifying families after traffic deaths

Posted at 9:05 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 23:15:38-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Highway Patrol is warning drivers to be safe on the roads this Thanksgiving holiday as the mid-state is on track to have the deadliest year on the roads since the pandemic began.

As a public information officer, Lt. Bill Miller is a familiar face at the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He spoke about his personal story of why he wants to see fatality numbers go down.

It has to do with "the walk:" the process of notifying family members of a crash victim that their loved one has died.

"I can’t really even begin to describe it to you — when you’re walking that sidewalk to the front door," Miller said. "Your feet get heavier. Your steps are harder to take, it’s like you’re walking in concrete. When you try to raise your hand and knock on the door, it’s like you’re pulling the weight of the world up from your side to reach up and knock on the door."

Troopers and other law enforcement in Tennessee have made that walk 1,159 times so far this year.

Miller says he still remembers the first time he had to make a death notification — he saw two fatalities that day.

It was 1998, off Highway 249 in Cheatham County.

"She ran off the road, jumped a guard rail, and went airborne into the trees," Miller said. "That’s stuck with me forever."

In two different scenes, there were two victims — one was 17 weeks pregnant, the other was 17 months old.

It's for those victims that Miller says troopers do their job, to encourage safe driving this Thanksgiving holiday and every day.

"To prevent having to feel an experience and share in that ungodly moment that we find ourselves in to many times," Miller said.

Get NewsChannel 5 Now, wherever, whenever, always free.

Watch the live stream below, and download our apps on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and more. Click here to learn more.