Authorities hope drivers heed warnings on road signs and drive more carefully


Eastbound vehicles on Interstate 24 are traveling under a digital road sign Thursday showing the number of road fatalities in Tennessee this year.

Traffic-related deaths across the country

* 2011: 32 310 *

* 2010: 32 885

*preliminary findings

Source: National Road Safety Administrationm

Traffic-related deaths in Tennessee

* 2012: 544 *

* 2011: 946

* 2010: 1,032

*to July 19

Source: Tennessee Department of Security

In other states

Some states, including the following, place individual commemorative markers for traffic-related deaths on highways at the request of the family:





Illinois (DUI only)


Montana (American Legion places white crosses)

New Mexico

South Dakota



Washington (DUI only)

West Virginia


Source: State Transport Departments

Five hundred forty-four. That’s the number of fatalities so far this year on Tennessee roads, according to signs overlooking Interstate 75.

The death signs, which debuted April 30, are a collaboration between the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the State Safety Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol to educate people about the dangers of driving , especially driving under the influence and safety of seat belts.

Chattanooga resident Grace Mullaney said seeing the signs on the freeway was “shocking.”

“Every time I see them, I’m like ‘Maybe I should slow down’,” she said. “It’s scary, you know, to see the numbers. When I first started driving I always think of my dad telling me ‘Driving a car is a big responsibility’. It goes through my head when I see the signs.”

The numbers were placed on existing TDOT signs after an almost 13% increase in traffic-related deaths statewide from January through April compared to the same period last year.

The increase here follows a nationwide decrease for 2011. According to preliminary results from all of the United States, traffic-related deaths decreased by 575 in total in 2011 compared to 2010, reported the National Highway Safety Administration. In Tennessee, traffic-related deaths reached the lowest number in 40 years.

Officials do not know exactly what caused the increase in the number of accidents.

“During the month of March, temperatures were warmer than usual, and we believe more people were outside and traveling compared to the previous year, 2011,” said Dalya Qualls, chief information officer at Tennessee Department of Safety. “But we don’t really know. It could be attributed to a number of things, but our priority is to educate the public.”

Jennifer Flynn, community resources manager for TDOT, said the dramatic increase in deaths during the first part of the year prompted agencies to take action.

“We were hoping to do something to get people’s attention to this and hopefully promote safe driving,” Flynn said. “From a personal point of view, that makes me think. You think it’s not just a number. Everyone is a person – it’s someone’s friend, someone’s family. . “

The signs affected Jon Buchan’s driving, although he was not sure how other drivers reacted to them.

“I didn’t really notice a dramatic reduction in speed on the freeways,” he said. “I’m sure there are a lot like me who notice and slow down. But I didn’t see anything significant.”

Neither Kilbrey Fowler nor Joan Rose changed their driving habits based on the signs, but both women said the numbers continue to amaze them.

“I am amazed that this continues to increase,” said Rose. “I remember the day it was 444 – because it’s easy to remember – and a week later it was 500. It was like, ‘Whoa.'”

In addition to signs, police crack down on seat belt violations and people driving under the influence. The Chattanooga area highway patrol office recorded a 43% increase in impaired driving arrests and seat belt application.

“We have three priorities that we are working on: dangerous driving – which includes moving infractions, speeding, following too close and reckless driving – drunk driving and seat belts.” said Captain David McGill, Tennessee Highway Patrol chief for the district. 2, which covers Chattanooga. “If we can stay with that focus and save lives, we’re doing fine. “

The highway patrol has had some success. Hamilton County has seen the largest decline in traffic-related deaths for the year so far, from 21 to 13. This is due, in part, to highway patrol officers “saturating” areas with traffic. High alcohol-related death rates, according to McGill.

“It’s being proactive in law enforcement. Instead of reacting, we go out and warn before it happens,” he said.

But Chattanoogan Isaiah Hamilton doubts the signs will have a lasting effect.

“It’s always a different generation of riders, doing stupid things,” he said.

Still, the fact that people are talking and thinking about signs is a good thing, Flynn said.

“I’ve heard this from a number of people – it makes them think. It’s a shocking statistic, when you see this,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility to drive.”


Comments are closed.