NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Over 1,000 people died on Tennessee highways in 2012, said a new report released from the Tennessee Department of Safety.
In 2012, there were 1,019 traffic-related deaths in Tennessee an increase of 8.8% over 2011.
"We recorded the lowest number of traffic deaths in 48 years in 2011. We knew those figures would be difficult to replicate. However, despite last year's increase, traffic fatalities in Tennessee have declined by nearly 24 percent since 2004. The downward trend indicates that we are moving in the right direction, but we must do better," Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
Officials said the top causes of the fatal crashes were drivers not wearing seatbelts. In Tennessee, unrestrained motorists accounted for more than half (52.7%) of vehicle occupants killed in 2012. Other contributing factors in fatal crashes included speed and distracted driving, with 141 and 56 deaths, respectively.
"Distracted driving is the number one killer of teens nationwide," GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. "Last year, teen traffic fatalities increased just over 10 percent in Tennessee. Our goal is to coordinate safety initiatives with state and local law enforcement partners to educate the public on responsible habits on the road, including enforcements and safety messages on seat belt usage and impaired and distracted driving."
Another area officials were concerned about was the number of motorcycle fatalities, which have more than tripled in Tennessee in the last 14 years. In 2012 138 motorcyclists lost their lives on state roadways, compared to 114 motorcyclist deaths in 2011.