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Fewer deaths on Tennessee roads in 2013, more seatbelt citations issued

Tennessee Highway Patrol district one headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee Highway Patrol district one headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.
David Garrett Jr.

In 2013, there was a 2.7 percent decrease in deaths on Tennessee roads, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS) announced on Thursday. 988 people died last year compared to 1,015 in 2012. The department said this was the fourth time in 50 years that vehicular fatalities totaled less than 1,000.

"The decline in the number of traffic fatalities in 2013 indicates that Tennessee is moving in the right direction. Our focus on data driven deployment of state troopers to have the maximum impact on DUI and seat belt enforcement is paying off. We have much more work to do, though," DSHS Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) issued 74,277 seat belt and child-restraint-device citations in 2013, a 135.1 percent increase from the 31,599 citations issued in 2010. According to the state, almost half (364) of those killed in 2013 were not properly restrained. Other contributing factors were speed, with 184 deaths, and distracted driving with 167 deaths.

Since 2010, impaired driving fatalities dropped 26.7 percent. According to preliminary statistics from the state, in 2013, 211 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes (24.1 percent). State troopers also had a 90.4 percent increase in DUI arrests (6,428) compared to 2010. The department said it's concerned that pedestrian fatalities rose 25 percent over last year.

"In 2014, we will employ a predictive analytics model (C.R.A.S.H.) to look even more closely at where traffic crashes are most likely to occur and deploy our resources, both in educational efforts and enforcement. We hope that this new tool will help reduce serious injury and fatal crashes across the state," THP Colonel Tracy Trott said.