Not a single person died in a traffic crash in Grundy County, Tenn., during 2015.
It’s the first time the county has avoided all traffic deaths in a calendar year since the Tennessee Highway Patrol started keeping track in the 1950s.
The count is a testament to teamwork among troopers, Monteagle police and Tracy City police, said Col. Tracy Trott, who heads the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He drove down to Monteagle from Nashville to honor the county on Friday, and passed out awards to several officers.
“Zero has a lot of meaning to us,” Trott said. “We care about the people who die — they’re not just a statistic to us.”
In 2014, the highway patrol launched a “Drive to Zero” campaign aimed at reducing traffic fatalities, and troopers wear pins that say “Zero” on their uniforms to remind them of the goal, Trott said.
Only five or six of Tennessee’s 95 counties ended 2015 without any traffic deaths, he estimated.
“We never really know how much good we’ve done,” Trott said. “Would that drunken driver you arrested have gone down the road and killed someone? But I can tell you, Grundy County has done more than they can do. Zero fatalities in 2015. You can’t get any better than that.”
So far in 2016, 127 people have died in traffic crashes across Tennessee. That’s a pace of about two people each day, said Lt. Bill Miller.
“We’ll hit a record low if we stay at this pace,” he said. “But we know that as the weather warms up, more people will be on the roads and that number may climb.”
Miller said the Tennessee Highway Patrol is working to encourage all drivers and passengers to take responsibility for their own safety in 2016. Enforcement is just part of the picture, he said.
In 2015, 48 percent of the people who died in traffic crashes across the state were not wearing seatbelts. That’s lower than 2010, when 54 percent of fatal crashes involved an unrestrained person.
Troopers have issued more seat belt citations each year since 2010, according to THP records. In 2010, troopers issued about 31,000 seat belt citations across the state. That climbed to 114,000 in 2015.
And for the last five years, about 28 percent of the state’s annual traffic fatalities involved an impaired driver.
“Buckle up,” Miller said. “Don’t speed. Don’t text. Don’t drive with distractions. Don’t drive under the influence.”