NASHVILLE - Preliminary figures shows Tennessee traffic deaths fell 2.7 percent last year, decreasing from 1,015 in 2012 to 988 in 2013, the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security announced today.
The figure represents just the fourth time in 50 years that vehicular fatalities have dropped below 1,000, officials say.
In 2012, deaths increased over 2011. At 937 traffic-related deaths, 2011 represented the lowest number in traffic-related fatalities since 1963.
The 2013 improvement came after officials publicly voiced concerns in October about the number of deaths on state roads and highways which at that point were running neck and neck with 2012.
"The decline in the number of traffic fatalities in 2013 indicates that Tennessee is moving in the right direction," Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a news release. "Our focus on data driven deployment of state troopers to have the maximum impact on DUI and seat belt enforcement is paying off."
But Gibbons said, "we have much more work to do, though."
One area of concern -- pedestrian fatalities rose 25 percent in 2013, going from 68 in 2012 to 85 in 2013.
Impaired driving fatalities fell 26.7 percent from 2010 to 2013 in Tennessee. In 2013, preliminary statistics indicate 211 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes across the state. That's 24.1 percent of total deaths. State troopers increased their number of DUI arrests in 2013 to 6,428, a 90.4 percent increase over 2010.
Tennessee state troopers issued 74,277 seat belt and child-restraint device citations in 2013, a 135.1 percent jump from the 31,599 citations issued in 2010.
In Tennessee, unrestrained motorists accounted for 48.9 percent (364) of vehicle occupants killed in 2013.