NASHVILLE - State traffic fatalities fell nearly 14 percent during the first six months of 2013 versus the same period in 2012, according preliminary figures released today by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Officials say tougher enforcement of DUI and mandatory seat belt laws have helped reduce the number of deaths.
THP Col. Tracy Trott said 436 people died in crashes from Jan. 1 to June 30, a decrease of 70 or 13.8 percent. The figures reflect vehicular deaths reported by all law enforcement agencies across the state.
Trott also cited a 10.7 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes investigated by the THP. State Troopers worked 975 impaired driving accidents from Jan. 1 through June 30 this year, a drop from the 1,092 crashes during the first six months of 2012.
"DUI enforcement has become one of our agency's top priorities in the last few years," Trott said in a news release. "We have arrested 3,151 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving during the first six months of this year -- a 9.8 percent increase from the 2,870 DUI arrests.
He said "each time we remove a drunk driver from our roadways, we reduce the chance of a serious injury or fatal crash occurring."
State Safety and Homeland Security Commission Bill Gibbons said the THP's efforts are "evident in the data produced on the roadways. We are encouraged by the reduction of crashes investigated, specifically injury and alcohol-related across the state."
He said officials "hope to continue this trend."
During the first six months of this year, state troopers have issued 37,191 seat belt citations -- a 14,000 hike or 62.3 percent increase over the first half of last year.
Trott thinks tougher seat belt enforcement has resulted in a 31.2 percent reduction in the number of unrestrained fatalities across the state.