NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — According to AAA, nearly 700,000 Tennesseans will drive to various destinations for Memorial Day weekend, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol wants to offer a word of caution before you hit the road, especially if you plan on drinking this weekend.

In 2020, 394 people lost their lives on Tennessee roadways. Already in 2021, there have been 499 fatalities. That’s a 26.6 percent increase from last year.

“That’s why I want to encourage people to be safe,” Capt. Travis Plotzer with the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.

THP has made it their mission to remind drivers to follow the rules of the road – wear your seatbelt, drive safely, and don’t drink and drive.

“I’ve been a trooper since 2005,” Plotzer said. “The hardest part of our job is not writing a citation…. not arresting a drunk driver. The hardest part of our job is getting out of our car to go knock on somebody’s door and tell them their loved one is not coming home. The words for that are so tough to come by.”

Plotzer recommends agreeing to a designated driver or making a plan for transportation in advance.

“There’s a host of options out there — taxis, rideshare,” Plotzer explained. “Get a friend that has made that decision to be a sober driver, and I want to encourage you – make that decision on the front side, not after you get into whatever you are doing.”

Plotzer says the Tennessee Highway Patrol will also increase patrols over the weekend.