Traffic fatalities in Tennessee last year dropped below 1,000, marking the fourth time in 50 years it’s happened, state authorities said.
In Washington County, however, there were more people killed in car crashes last year than in 2012.
Statewide last year, 988 people died in car crashes compared to 1,015 in 2012. In Washington County, there were 13 killed in 2013 compared to nine in 2012.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security released the statistics this week.
Commissioner Bill Gibbons contributed the drop in fatalities across the state to better law enforcement.
“The decline in the number of traffic fatalities in 2013 indicates that Tennessee is moving in the right direction,” he said. “Our focus on data-driven deployment of state troopers to have the maximum impact on DUI and seat-belt enforcement is paying off. We have much more work to do, though.”
Alcohol-related traffic fatalities also dropped statewide by 26.7 percent in 2013. Last year 211 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, the news release said. The number of statewide and local alcohol-related crashes in 2012 was not provided or available.
State troopers also focused much of their efforts on seat belt and child-restraint-device enforcement and issued 74,277 citations for not using those safety devices.
The number of citations represented a 135.1 percent increase from the 31,399 citations issued in 2012. The anticipated outcome of the increase enforcement was to save lives, the report said, given that not wearing a seat belt increases the chance of dying in a car crash.
In 2013, nearly 37 percent — 364 of the 988 people killed in crashes — were not wearing their seat belt. Other top contributing factors in fatal crashes were speeding — 184 deaths — and distracted driving, which accounted for 167 deaths.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said state troopers will continue seat-belt enforcement as well as focus even closer on areas where crashes are more likely to occur.
“In 2014 we will employ a predictive analytics model to look even more closely at where traffic crashes are most likely to occur and deploy our resources, both in educational efforts and enforcement. We hope this new tool will help reduce serious injury and fatal crashes across the state,” Trott said.