NASHVILLE (press release)—Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today announced the preliminary number of traffic fatalities in Tennessee last year and the state’s strategic highway safety plan for 2015. The 2014 traffic fatality numbers include vehicular deaths reported by all Tennessee law enforcement agencies.
Early figures indicate there were 961 vehicular deaths on Tennessee roadways in 2014. That’s the second lowest traffic fatality number since 1963 and the fifth time traffic deaths have dipped below 1,000 since that year.
The 2014 traffic fatality figure also represents a 3.4 percent decrease in the number of traffic-related deaths in Tennessee compared to the 995 traffic fatalities in 2013.
“Commissioner Schroer and I have a shared goal to make an impact on traffic fatalities in our state,” Commissioner Gibbons said. “Tennessee has experienced record low numbers in three of the last four years; and we hope to continue that trend in the future. We’ll continue to deploy our resources to help reduce fatal crashes across the state,” he added.
Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott credited DUI and seat belt enforcement for the decline in traffic-related deaths. State troopers arrested nearly 2,000 more individuals on suspicion of DUI in 2014, compared to 2013. Subsequently, there was an 18.6 percent drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2013 to 2014 in Tennessee.
THP personnel also have experienced a 149 percent increase in the number of DUI arrests since 2010.
“I know that our traffic enforcement efforts are making a difference in Tennessee,” Colonel 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.”
Seat belt and child restraint device education and enforcement efforts were also a priority for the THP. Tennessee state troopers issued 102,758 seat belt citations in 2014, approximately 28,000 more than the 74,277 citations handed out in 2013. That represents a 225 percent increase in seat belt citations since 2010.
“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.”
Other contributing factors in fatal crashes included speed and distracted driving, with 132 and 41 deaths, respectively.
“We’ve made vast improvements in all areas of traffic safety; however, we have much more to accomplish and hope to see even better results in 2015,” Commissioner Gibbons said.
TDOT Commissioner Schroer presented the department’s plan to improve highway safety in 2015. The Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Tennessee’s comprehensive transportation safety strategy, was first developed in 2004.
The latest plan adopts a “Toward Zero Deaths” vision statement, which is a national strategy to improve highway safety. The plan’s primary goal is to reduce the number and rate of fatalities by 10 percent within the next five years.
“Reducing the number of fatalities by 10 percent is a realistic, but challenging goal,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “By designing safer roads, using data driven enforcement and educating drivers, we can make drastic improvements and save hundreds of lives.”
The Strategic Highway Safety Plan addresses emphasis areas utilizing the “Four E’s of Transportation Safety”: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Emergency Response.