Tennessee road fatalities in 2021 outpacing 2020

Special Reports
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Generic image of Traffic in Nashville (WKRN photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The number of people who have died in traffic crashes has increased for the fourth straight year in Tennessee.

Law enforcement said a spike in population growth and a lack of police officers to enforce laws have contributed to the deadly trend.

The number of fatalities in 2021 is outpacing 2020 with more than a thousand people’s lives cut short.

“Our ultimate goal is to have zero fatalities in the state of Tennessee, but unfortunately, it’s not happening,” said Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Drew Heath, “And a lot of it has to do with distracted driving, speeding, reckless driving.”

Both state and local authorities are working to decrease the number of fatalities.

“It’s very dangerous how it’s becoming in Nashville,” said Metro Nashville Police Officer Sam Johnson.

Johnson is often called to work on deadly crash scenes in Metro, “Working with the fatal crash team, We’re at 15 [fatalities] over what we were last year already.”

Some areas seem to be more dangerous than others. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has an interstate crash hot spot map on its website. It shows where the most accidents occurred in 2020 – the areas in red being the worst.

Interstate crash hot spots in 2020 – click here to see the entire map

The I-24 and I-40 split and sections along I-24 in Rutherford County were some of the worst in the area.

“The main thing we see is speed and just losing control,” said Officer Johnson, “Drifting off the roadway crashing into other cars and hitting a lot of pedestrians. We’re seeing that happen.”

News 2 captured on video a driver on I-24 hitting speeds of 103mph in a construction zone.

“I see a lot of the ‘me’ mentality. I have to get to where I’m going as fast as I can, not worried about anyone else’s safety or anything like that.”

News 2 digs deeper into the dangers posed by aggressive drivers and what cops are doing about it in our special reports ‘Aggressive Drivers’ on-air and on WKRN.com.

Officer Johnson continued, “It’s really causing a huge problem for us,” and those who share the road with aggressive drivers.

*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said 2021 road fatalities have already surpassed 2020’s. It’s been corrected to say the road fatalities are on outpace last year’s total.

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