Tennessee 'on track' to have safest year on roads - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee 'on track' to have safest year on roads

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KNOXVILLE, TN (WBIR) -

The Tennessee Highway Patrol announced on social media that the state is on its way to having the safest year ever on the roads.

THP tweeted Saturday, Aug. 8, saying, "TN is on pace to have fewer fatalities than in 1963. We have 46 fewer deaths in 2015 compared to this time last year. Help us #drivetozero."

"If that trend continues, yes, it will be the safest year on record," THP Lt. Don Boshears said. "We hope it does."

Just a few days after that tweet, the numbers are down even further. As of Aug. 11, 2015, there have been 50 fewer fatalities on Tennessee roadways compared to last year at the same time.

Boshears said some of THP's programs such as predictive crash analytics and educational events are contributing to the lower numbers.

"We use crash data to schedule sobriety checkpoints, DL checkpoints, seat belts," Boshears said. "It's all done on crash data, past data. We'd also like to think the education side is (contributing), too. Anybody we can talk to about seat belts, distraction, impairment… We're trying to educate the public and trying to get them not to do those type of things."

Although he said distractions like cell phone use, eating and any other activity diverting drivers' attention are big factors in accident fatalities, he said seat belt usage is the most crucial when it comes to life or death. He said out of the 531 fatalities recorded to date this year, about half of those deaths involved drivers who weren't buckled up.

"Typically, if we had got those 50 percent of people to wear their seat belts, they'd probably still be with us today," Boshears said.

The Governor's Highway Safety Office said seat belt usage decreased this year, and it is working to improve the statistic.

"We have seen a decrease in seat belt usage this year," GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. "Although very minimal, it is of great concern to us as we continue to see unbelted fatalities in almost 50 percent of our crashes. Our current seat belt usage number is at 86.2%. I can only imagine how many more lives that we could save in Tennessee if we got even more people to buckle up every trip, every time."

Boshears said it is up to drivers the rest of the year to keep fatalities lower than ever.

"Help us help you," Boshears said. "We're going to do the enforcement. We're going to do our education programs, but we need the public's help also."

Read more at WBIR's website.

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