Tenn. reports second fewest traffic deaths last year since 1963

NASHVILLE (WATE) – State officials say 961 people died on Tennessee roadways last year, the second lowest amount since 1963 and only the fifth time traffic deaths have dipped below 1,000 since this year.

It’s also a 3.4 percent decrease in traffic-related deaths from 2013 when 995 people were killed.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott credits DUI and seat belt enforcement for the decline in traffic-related deaths. Troopers arrested 2,000 more people in 2014 than in 2013 for suspicion of DUI. Alcohol related fatalities dropped 18.6 percent from year to year.

“I know that our traffic enforcement efforts are making a difference in Tennessee,” Col. Trott said. “Those numbers are not by accident; they are by design. We’ve placed a greater emphasis on removing impaired drivers from our roadways in the last few years and the traffic fatality figures are a result of those efforts.”

Troopers issued 102,758 seat belt citations in 2014, around 28,000 more than they issued the previous year.

“Unrestrained motorists still accounted for 50 percent of vehicle occupants killed in 2014,” Trott said. “Seat belts save lives. We have to change driver behavior in order to make a difference there.”

Speed accounted for 132 of the deaths in 2014, and distracted driving for 41.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s 2015 Strategic Highway Safety Plan includes a “Toward Zero Deaths” vision statement, part of a national strategy to improve highway safety. The primary goal is to reduce roadway fatalities by 10 percent in the next five years.

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