Yesterday, the Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security, TDOT and the Governor's Highway Safety Office announced the preliminary traffic fatalities results for 2012. There were 1,019 traffic-related deaths in 2012 compared to 937 deaths in 2011, which is the lowest on record.
“We recorded the lowest number of traffic deaths in 48 years in 2011. We knew those figures would be difficult to replicate. However, despite last year’s increase, traffic fatalities in Tennessee have declined by nearly 24 percent since 2004. The downward trend indicates that we are moving in the right direction, but we must do better,” Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
According to the departments, Tennessee has seen a decrease in several roadway deaths. Overall traffic crashes dropped by 7.8 percent since 2004, fatalities involving large trucks decreased 39.5 percent since 2005, ATV deaths have declined 50 percent since 2008, and pedestrian deaths declined 19 percent since 2011.
When we began posting the fatality numbers on our message boards, our number one goal was to make drivers think about risky behavior that could cost them their lives," TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. "In addition to raising awareness, we are also investing millions of dollars in projects to improve safety across the state."
Impaired driving fatalities fell 31.8 percent from 2007 to 2011. In 2012, preliminary statistics indicate 246 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes across the state. Also, state troopers increased their number of DUI arrests by 25.4 percent last year compared to 2011.
"Impaired driving and seat belt usage continues to cause a major concern for the law enforcement community and highway safety advocates," THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. "Our agency will continue to focus on these traffic safety issues with seat belt saturations, sobriety checkpoints and 'No Refusal' enforcement campaigns in 2013. We only hope the citizens of Tennessee help us in this effort to save lives – buckle up and don’t drink and drive," he added.
In Tennessee, unrestrained motorists accounted for about 53 percent of vehicle occupants killed in 2012. Other contributing factors in fatal crashes included speed and distracted driving, with 141 and 56 deaths, respectively.
"Distracted driving is the number one killer of teens nationwide," GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. "Last year, teen traffic fatalities increased just over 10 percent in Tennessee. Our goal is to coordinate safety initiatives with state and local law enforcement partners to educate the public on responsible habits on the road, including enforcements and safety messages on seat belt usage and impaired and distracted driving."
Motorcycle fatalities have more than tripled in the last 14 years. Last year, 138 motorcyclists lost their lives on Tennessee roads. One-hundred and fourteen died in 2011.
"Drinking and driving is not just a problem for motorists in passenger vehicles," Colonel Trott said. "Of the 138 motorcycle fatalities in Tennessee last year, 20.3 percent of them were alcohol-related. We hope to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes amongst motorcyclists in 2013, by focusing on education and enforcing impaired driving laws."
36 people have died so far on state roadways this year. According to officials, that's the same number of deaths at this time last year.