The incidence of fatal accidents in Cumberland County this year is already higher than last year, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, with 12 fatalities from car, truck and motorcycle accidents so far this year. As a result, law enforcement is planning saturation patrols in the area starting this weekend.
The saturation patrols will focus on I-40 and other major roadways in the Middle Tennessee county, with an eye out for drunk drivers, speeders, distracted drivers and those not wearing seat belts.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of all fatal accidents in the nation occur on rural roads. TDOT data indicate a similar trend in Cumberland County, although slightly more of the county's fatalities occur on I-40 than on Interstate highways nationwide. According to TDOT, 50 percent of all traffic fatalities in Cumberland County occurred on I-40, and the other half occur on U.S. routes in rural areas.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation did not provide an explanation for the increase in fatal accidents in the area, and indeed, the cause may not yet be known. However, we can all hope that heavier policing for distracted or drunk drivers will cut down on the number of tragic accidents.
One issue that may contribute to fatalities in rural areas is the failure of passengers to wear seat belts. It is unfortunately quite common for drivers in rural areas to allow people to ride without wearing seat belts, or to ride in non-passenger areas, such as in the back of pickup trucks.
According to TDOT, unrestrained passengers are not just a danger to themselves during a car accident. People not wearing seat belts can be thrown around -- or out of -- the vehicle in a wreck, increasing the severity of the crash and increasing the chance of fatalities.
"Increasing seat belt usage is the most effective and immediate way to save lives and reduce injuries on roadways," says TDOT's website. Please drive safely.