NASHVILLE – After record-setting reductions in the number of highway fatalities in Tennessee, the state is now seeing a dramatic increase in crash deaths so far in 2012. Preliminary reports show 288 people have died on Tennessee roadways from January 1 through April 27, 2012. During the same period last year, there were 27 fewer crash fatalities across the state.
Beginning today, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will begin running a daily roadway fatality count on overhead Dynamic Message Signs in the state’s urban areas, along with targeted safety messages reminding motorists to wear their seatbelts, obey the speed limit, and to not text and drive.
“Bottom line – this is an unacceptable increase, and I think it’s important that drivers know just how many people have already died on our roadways this year,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “It’s my hope that seeing this number will be a sobering reminder to all motorists and will help change the behaviors that contribute to these deadly crashes.”
The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is also working to reduce fatalities. THP has instituted large scale seat belt enforcement efforts in each district in conjunction with increased DUI enforcement efforts.
“Each one of these fatalities represents someone’s child, mother, father, brother, sister or friend,” said Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. “We want to act now to prevent other families from suffering this kind of tragedy.”
THP Colonel Tracy Trott added, “Nearly half of this year’s fatalities involved motorists who were not wearing a seat belt, and we know many of those victims would have likely survived had they been. Troopers will be out in force and if you’re not buckled up – you will get a ticket.”
TDOT’s Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) will also be working with local law enforcement agencies across the state on targeted enforcement campaigns and safety education.
“Another startling statistic so far this year is the rise in motorcycle fatalities,” said GHSO Director Kendell Poole. “We know the mild winter and warm spring has likely led more cyclists to hit the roads earlier in the year. As we head into summer, we want to raise awareness in hopes of reversing this trend.”
TDOT is also using the preliminary crash data to determine where roadway safety improvements can be made. This includes installing additional rumble strips that alert drivers when they leave the travel lane, and the addition of reflective raised pavement markers that increase visibility. TDOT is also working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a program that identifies locations where multiple fatal crashes have occurred.
There were 16 more fatalities in January 2012, compared to January 2011. In the month of March alone, there were 104 fatalities across the state, compared to 80 during March 2011. So far in April 2012, there have been 45 fatalities, 30 fewer than in April 2011.