The Tennessee Highway Patrol is urging drivers to use caution on the roads after new numbers indicate the traffic fatality rate is significantly higher than year than last in Hamilton County.

"Significant increase in the Hamilton County area that has us scared," said Lt. John Harmon with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

In 2018, there were nine fatalities in Hamilton County as of May 3. That number has more than doubled since last year and THP officials say the sudden jump is alarming.

"There's 11 people that have lost their lives more than last year at this time. As we come into the summer season of traveling and vacations and schools out, ball games, we want you to remember, we want you to buckle that seat belt," Harmon said.

Data also shows crash fatalities have increased mainly within the city limits. Harmon says they're uncertain on why that may be, but may be able to attribute some of it to more traffic in those areas. He says the increased numbers are a part of district-wide trend across several counties according to THP.

"We've had several increases. Bledsoe County has increased two fatalities, Bradley County has increased two fatalities, Polk County is up two, they didn't have any at this time (last year). Rhea County is up one and Sequatchie County is up one," Harmon explained.

He says after reviewing the cases, many of them had one detail in common.

"In several reports that have come across my desk, the drivers or the passengers did not have their seat belt on," he said.

He believes it's a factor that could've changed the outcome of those accidents.

"In the professional opinion of a Tennessee State Trooper, with the preliminary information, if they would've had their seat belt on they would've survived the crash. That's sad to say," Harmon told Channel 3.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is also cautioning drivers to be mindful of an increase in pedestrians on the roadways, whether they're walking or biking, as the temperatures outside warm up.

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