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Traffic deaths rise, reversing trend in state

Traffic deaths rise, reversing trend in state

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010 9:08 pm
By: AP

JOE EDWARDS
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee traffic fatalities this year already have exceeded those of 2009, reversing a three-year trend.
So far in 2010, 1,005 people have died in state wrecks, more than the 989 killed in all of last year. There were 1,211 in 2007 and 1,043 in 2008.
“Last year there was such a deep decline,” said Mike Browning, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Safety. “The final numbers are probably coming closer to 2008.”
One encouraging figure this year is in the 10-county Memphis district of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, where traffic fatals have declined by 26 over a year ago.
But traffic fatals are up 28 in the Chattanooga district and 26 in the Knoxville district, areas that are considered rural outside the cities of Chattanooga and Knoxville.
Fatal wrecks in rural counties are trending up, and troopers link this to less use of seat belts. The usage rate statewide is around 87 percent but in rural areas under 80.
“There’s just a challenge communicating and convincing some people in rural areas about the need to wear a seat belt,” Browning said.
Another positive statistic this year is a continued decline in teenage traffic fatalities. There are 80 so far, down 12 percent from a year ago and 51 percent since 2006.
One possible factor for the decline is the “Between the Barrels” safety education program where officials visit various high schools. Another is the 2001 graduated driver’s license law, “which requires minimum levels of driving experience and a safe driving record before moving on to a full and unrestricted license,” Browning said.
Of this year’s fatalities, 414 were not wearing restraints.
“In many of those cases, seat belts would have made a difference,” Browning said.
June was this year’s deadliest month on Tennessee highways, with 110 fatalities. August was next with 98.
Adding to the state’s vulnerability for traffic deaths is Tennessee’s lengthy and widely used interstate system, totaling more than 1,100 miles. Interstates 75, 65 and 24 are main routes between much of the Midwest and points south of the state; I-40 is an east-west route connecting the two coasts.
The data on recent fatalities are preliminary and the figure could change slightly after final reports are in.

Published in The Messenger 12.27.10

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