NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Traffic fatalities are on the rise in Tennessee compared to this time last year.

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, by this time in 2019, there were 371 traffic fatalities in Tennessee. That number increased slightly in 2020 to 377. But so far this year, there have been 467 traffic fatalities on roads in Tennessee. That’s an almost 24% increase.

“It’s very heartbreaking and it’s extremely disturbing,” said THP Lt. Bill Miller. “And when you say statistics, that’s people. That’s human beings. That’s somebody’s family member that’s been killed in a car crash.”

In Davidson County, the DSHS reported there were 29 traffic fatalities by this time in 2020 and the number increased by 25 to 54 fatalities so far in 2021. Davidson County is included in THP District three’s 12 counties and the area has seen 61 more traffic fatalities already compared to the same period in 2020.

When comparing Davidson County to another heavily populated area, Shelby County (Memphis) still saw far more fatalities so far this year with 79 having been reported. That number was only five fatalities higher than 2020.

Lt. Miller said the main contributing factor for these fatal crashes are speeding, alcohol, failure to maintain lane, and being unrestrained.

“The top four factors that will lead to a death in a car crash, every single one of those factors is 100% preventable,” Lt. Miller said. “Law enforcement is tasked with doing the job of enforcing traffic. Obviously, if you look at the flow of traffic and you look at the overall number of Tennesseans, there’s not an equal number of law enforcement. Law enforcement simply cannot be everywhere every time. So, this is something we really need drivers and passengers to partner with us about.”

Lt. Miller said troopers expected to see more crashes this year with COVID-19 restrictions being eased and more people returning to work, school or attending events.

“Summer vacations, it’s all right here,” said Lt. Miller. “With that being said many people who have been quarantined or having cabin fever for so many months are now looking to go somewhere fun and exciting to dust off the old and bring in the new. With that said, we do anticipate more (crashes).”

In addition to slowing down and avoiding distractions to paying attention to the road, Lt. Miller said the most important piece of safety advice he can give to drivers to make sure they’re wearing a seatbelt.