To Reduce Traffic Deaths, Tennessee Troopers Handed Out 30,000 More Seat Belt Citations In 2014
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, half of people killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts. About one in five fatal accidents were alcohol-related. Credit: greeblie via Flickr

To Reduce Traffic Deaths, Tennessee Troopers Handed Out 30,000 More Seat Belt Citations In 2014

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, half of people killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts. About one in five fatal accidents were alcohol-related. Credit: greeblie via Flickr
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, half of people killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts. About one in five fatal accidents were alcohol-related. Credit: greeblie via Flickr

Tennessee drivers received 102,000 seat belt citations in 2014 — 30,000 more than the year before. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the increasing enforcement of seat belt laws is part of its effort to bring down the number traffic deaths.

By the end of 2014, 952 people died in Tennessee as part of vehicle crashes, compared to 986 in 2013. It’s still too many, says Sgt. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

“They’re not numbers to us,” he says. “They’re friends. They’re family.”

Half of the people killed were not wearing seat belts, according to THP data — hence the bigger push from Tennessee troopers to monitor seat belt use on highways.

“Our goal is not about numbers [of citations],” Miller says. “The number that’s important to us is getting those fatalities down, and if that means increasing citations, that’s what we’re going to do.”

State troopers have also been pulling over more people in recent years for driving under the influence: DUI arrests increased 150 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to THP data.

One of the newest advancements in curbing fatalities is a software system that Tennessee is piloting, which sifts through traffic data — including where accidents happened in the past, or what events are going on in the area — and then predicts where crashes are likely to occur. Miller says the system gets part of the credit for the 4 percent decrease in traffic deaths since last year.

But the best way to prevent fatalities, he says, is simply by drivers buckling their seat belts.

“Why would you get into a vehicle and decrease your odds of survival by 50 percent?” he says.


Tennessee Traffic Deaths, By The Numbers

Sgt. Bill Miller with the Tennessee Highway Patrol provided this data, unless otherwise cited.

  • 952 people were killed on Tennessee roads in 2014, compared to 986 in 2013.
  • 50 percent of people killed in 2014 were not wearing their seat belts.
  • 20.7 percent of fatal crashes in 2014 were alcohol-related.
  • 102,069 seat belt citations were issued in 2014, compared to 74,277 in 2013.
  • 8,333 DUI arrests were made in 2014, compared to 6,388 in 2013.
  • Tennessee ranked 11th in the country in 2012 for traffic fatalities per vehicle miles traveled, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Emily Siner

Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On Twitter: @SinerSays
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