Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security officials announced Tuesday preliminary figures indicating the state has recorded the fewest number of traffic fatalities in 48 years. In 2011, there were 947 traffic-related deaths on Tennessee roadways, representing the lowest figure since 1963 when 941 people were killed as a result of a crash.
Last year’s preliminary number of 947 traffic deaths marks just the third time in 48 years vehicular fatalities have dipped below 1,000. Since 2006, Tennessee traffic fatalities have declined by 26.2 percent, including a drop in fatalities involving large trucks (34.5%), pedal cyclists (28.6%), motorcyclists (19.1%) and pedestrians (4.5%).
In 2011, State Troopers arrested 4,689 impaired drivers, rising 39 percent from the previous year. Additionally, drunk-driving deaths fell 31.6 percent from 2006 to 2010. On the other hand, seat belt usage still causes a major concern for law enforcement officials and highway safety advocates. While 2011 data indicates the safety belt usage rate was 87.4 percent in Tennessee, 56.3 percent of vehicle occupants killed in fatal crashes were not buckled up.
“The 2011 decline in vehicular fatalities is a credit to the hard work and dedication of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, as well as a successful partnership with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “We are deploying State Troopers on a proactive basis to maximize the impact on public safety. The dramatic increase in DUI arrests reflects that effort on our part.”
Thanks to increased public awareness campaigns, along with traffic safety and driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement, the THP investigated fewer injury and alcohol-related crashes statewide in 2011. State Troopers worked 10,000 injury wrecks and 1,090 impaired driving crashes statewide last year, representing an 8.4 percent and 25.6 percent decline, respectively, from 2010.
“One life lost is one too many, but we are encouraged by last year’s fatality results and will continue to make every effort to ensure the public’s safety on Tennessee roadways,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “From the beginning, I have pushed our personnel to intensify DUI enforcement across the state. The 2011 results are in part due to the sacrifice each Tennessee State Trooper has made to save lives.”
“The Tennessee Highway Patrol, along with all of the county and municipal officers, worked hard to help us achieve this success,” Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) Director Kendell Poole said. “Throughout the year, we work with each agency to support and coordinate safety initiatives in order to increase safety belt usage, combat impaired driving and educate the public on responsible habits on the road. We will continue to support these efforts and help make a positive impact in Tennessee.”
Funding provided by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office has allowed the THP to continue providing increased enforcement and public awareness campaigns for the safety and security of state highways. Their financial support allows Troopers to work additional hours during special enforcement campaigns.
“We wouldn’t be able to perform our duties without the continued support of our state and federal highway safety partners,” Colonel Trott said. “While the decline in Tennessee traffic fatalities is a good sign, there is still more work to be done to ensure the safety of traveling motorists. We look forward to the challenge and the year ahead.”