There were 961 vehicular deaths on Tennessee roadways in 2014, according to preliminary figures released yesterday by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
That’s a drop from 995 fatalities in 2013, and 1,014 deaths on Tennessee roads in 2012.
Warren County saw its number of traffic-related deaths fall as well. There were six people killed on Warren County roadways in 2014 in six different accidents.
That’s a drastic reduction from 2012 and 2013 when 14 people were killed each year in Warren County.
“For the amount of traffic we have in this area, six fatalities is an extremely low number,” said Highway Patrol Lt. Billy Prater, who oversees Warren County. “What has hurt us in years past is when multiple people were killed in one accident. When you have three or four people killed in a single crash, your numbers increase real quickly. I’d like to say better enforcement is what’s led to fewer fatalities but we don’t know for sure.”
As far as statewide numbers, it’s only the fifth time since 1963 that traffic deaths have dipped below 1,000, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott credited DUI and seatbelt enforcement for the decline in traffic-related deaths. State troopers arrested nearly 2,000 more people for DUI in 2014 than in 2013.
State figures show there were 8,418 DUI arrests last year, well ahead of the 6,457 in 2013.
When looking all the way back to 2010, there were 3,376 statewide arrests for DUI. Last year’s total marks a 149 percent increase since 2010.
“I know 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 and the traffic fatality figures are a result of those efforts.”
Through seatbelt checkpoints, there has been a 225 percent increase in seatbelt citations since 2010.
“Unrestrained motorists still accounted for 50 percent of vehicle occupants killed in 2014,” Trott said. “Seatbelts save lives. We have to change driver behavior in order to make a difference there.”
Other contributing factors in fatal crashes included speed and distracted driving, with 132 and 41 deaths, respectively.
The state has a goal of reducing traffic fatalities by another 10 percent over the next five years. The state plans to accomplish this by better road engineering, greater enforcement, more public education, and faster emergency response times.