Traffic-related deaths on Tennessee highways in 2013 fell nearly three percent from the previous year, and state public safety officials credit heightened patrols with the difference.
The 988 deaths reported in 2013 represent a 2.7 percent decrease from 2012, according to figures released by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security on Thursday. The death rate on state highways has dipped below 1,000 only four times in the past half-century. Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons attributed the decline in part to more trooper patrols on state roadways, as well as tighter DUI enforcement.
"Our focus on deployment of state troopers to have the maximum impact on DUI and seat belt enforcement is paying off," Gibbons said in a statement. "We have much more work to do, though.”
DUI arrests increased 90 percent from 2010 to 2013. During the same period, deaths related to drunk driving fell more than 25 percent. Still, 211 people died from alcohol-related crashes in Tennessee this year.
Nearly half the state's traffic fatalities came from accidents in which the victims weren't wearing seat belts or restrained in car seats.
While 2013's statistics show improvement over 2012, the numbers were still higher than those recorded in 2011. The 937 highway deaths reported that year marked the lowest since 1963.