Tennessee has now surpassed a thousand highway fatalities for the year, representing a dramatic increase from drop seen in 2011. Safety officials believe this year’s figures would have been much worse if not for an intentionally disturbing public awareness campaign that began in April.
Three months into the year, roadway deaths were on track to approach the all-time high. So the Department of Transportation decided to put a running tally on the 150 digital highway signs around the state. The numbers are paired with direct messages like “don’t be next.”
Kendell Poole, who directs the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, says fatalities have been flat ever since, and he credits the signs.
“People are seeing the numbers that we’ve been seeing for years, that yes those numbers do jump three, five, eight in one particular day, and to see those numbers escalate really causes safety-conscious people to take notice.”
Poole says the public fatality count has been so effective that it will continue through the new year.
While highway deaths are up by 70 over last year, the figure is still well below the high water mark in 2004 when more than 1,300 people died on Tennessee roads.
Interstate 24 has been a particular hot spot for fatalities this year. On Friday, law enforcement officials are holding press conferences in Chattanooga and Murfreesboro to announce stepped-up traffic enforcement.