Pedestrian, bicycle deaths in Tennessee increase in 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee officials have recorded more pedestrian and bicycle deaths in 2015 than in any other year in the past two decades.

According to the Associated Press, 120 pedestrians and bicyclists died as of December 29. By comparison, there were 93 deaths in 2014.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Miller says the safety of pedestrians and those using non-motorized vehicles will be a primary focus for the agency next year. According to federal data available since 1982, the highest number of pedestrian and bicycle deaths were recorded in 1984 when 145 people died.

Related: Tenn. Highway Patrol conducts ‘No Refusal’ enforcement campaign for New Year’s

From hit and runs to people hit crossing the street, East Tennessee has certainly seen its share of fatalities. Knoxville Police Department conducted a pedestrian safety study funded by a Governor’s Highway Safety Study this year. The study identified trouble spots where they needed to have officers more visible to address concerns. Areas included:

  • Pedestrians crossing between Knoxville Convention Center and the Holiday Inn on Clinch Avenue
  • Drivers failing to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks on Sutherland Avenue near Renford Drive and Concord Street at South Concord Street Greenway Crossing
  • They also focused on speeding in school zones

During the study officers issued 88 citations, including several citations for driving on a suspended or revoked license and without insurance. Four out of 88 of those citations were issued in school zones.

WATE 6 On Your Side covered several crashes involving pedestrians in 2015 where the driver was charged with driving on a revoked driver’s license, driving under the influence or without insurance including an accident in Maryville where a woman was discovered hiding in a doghouse after police say she hit two parked cars and a pedestrian in her vehicle. James Rhines, 23, hit a pedestrian after he came around a curve in White Pine and hit a man crossing the road. Rhines was charged with driving on a revoked license. The license was revoked after he was arrested for a DUI in 2014.


Grace Christian Academy signed Slay’s jersey in memory of him.
Grace Christian Academy signed Slay’s jersey in memory of him.

Fifteen-year-old Connor “Miles” Slay was killed when he was hit by a car while attempting to cross Oak Ridge Highway in the Karns community. The sophomore had recently transferred from Catholic High School to play football at Grace Christian Academy.

Related: Knoxville teen killed while attempting to cross highway

After two pedestrians were hit in the same section of Rutledge Pike Northeast Knoxville, WATE 6 On Your Side looked into residents concerns. Residents on that stretch of road said the biggest concern was a lack of streetlights, which made it difficult to see pedestrians. In one of those accidents the driver was also charged with driving on a revoked license.

Related: Northeast Knoxville residents concerned about safety after 2 pedestrian deaths

Amy and Christal Cupp (source: family friend)
Amy and Christal Cupp (source: family friend)

There were also several hit-and-run crashes this year including one that killed a special needs girl in Morristown and left her mother with serious injuries. Family and friends said the Cupp family didn’t own a car and would walk to where they needed to go.

Related: Suspects charged in deadly Morristown hit and run crash

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