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Tenn. Traffic Deaths Up "Dramatically" in 2012

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  That State of Tennessee is reporting a dramatic rise in the number of traffic fatalities so far in 2012. As of Thursday, 305 people have died on the state’s highways, an increase of 26 deaths over the same period last year.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is especially concerned about the increase, because the trend in recent years has been toward a steady decline in highway deaths.

TDOT spokesperson Deanna Lambert says the state suspects several factors are contributing to the rise in fatalities.

“Lot of times people aren’t wearing seatbelts, so that’s a big factor. Sometimes people are texting and driving; alcohol is a big factor. But also, the weather has been really been nice a lot earlier than in years past, so you know when the weather is nice a lot of people are out and about.”

Lambert says the early spring also means more motorcycles are on the road earlier in the season. She says there’s been a corresponding rise in bike deaths as well with a total of 33 fatalities to date, up from 24 during the same period last year.

TDOT is flashing the troubling numbers up on its electronic billboards around the state, hoping drivers will take notice and drive more defensively.