The number of traffic deaths in Bedford County doubled last year over 2011, but remained below previous years, Tennessee Highway Patrol statistics show.
Eight were killed locally in 2012, a number skewed by a three-fatality crash in December. Bedford County had four fatalities in 2011, nine in 2010, 13 in 2009, and 12 in 2008. the THP said.
Statewide. 1,019 traffic-related deaths were recorded by the THP in 2012.
"I'd like to think the lower number is due to the hard work of my troopers," said Sgt. Monty Terry, who oversees Bedford County's THP office.
"We've put more emphasis on DUIs, seat belt use, saturations (many troopers targeting the area on key weekends) and checkpoints."
DUI arrests by troopers in Bedford County almost tripled between 2008-12, Terry said.
The tentative DUI total in Bedford County for 2012 was 102; 89 arrests were made in 2011, 88 in 2010, 31 in 2009 and 36 in 2008.
"Other agencies including the Bedford County Sheriff's Department and Shelbyville Police Department were working with us as a team," Terry said. "The county helped us on sobriety checkpoints and the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
"We're trying to do some proactive things, focusing on moving violations such as DUIs. We'll be doing more sobriety checkpoints and No Refusal Weekends."
No Refusal Weekends target drivers accused of DUI who attempt to refuse breath tests.
"The numbers probably won't ever go down to zero, but we'll keep hammering away at it," Terry said.
"I'm in support of Commissioner Schroer (John Schroer, Tennessee Department of Transportation) and Commissioner Gibbons (Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security) in whatever they can do to make our roads safer," said State Sen. Jim Tracy, who chairs the Senate Safety and Transportation Committee.
Tracy said he supports steps that have been taken such as posting signs with the number of highway deaths as a way to raise public awareness of the need for safe driving.
"I'm on the roads a lot," said Tracy, an insurance agent, which helps him understand the importance of safe driving.
Although the statewide number is the third lowest since 1963, it marks an 8.8 percent increase compared to 2011, when there was a record-low number of 937 vehicular fatalities.
"We recorded the lowest number of traffic deaths in 48 years in 2011. We knew those figures would be difficult to replicate," Gibbons said.
"However, despite last year's increase, traffic fatalities in Tennessee have declined by nearly 24 percent since 2004. The downward trend indicates that we are moving in the right direction, but we must do better."
Tennessee has experienced a decline in roadway incidents in several categories over the past decade, according to THP statistics.
Since 2004, overall traffic crashes have dropped by 7.8 percent; traffic fatalities involving large trucks have decreased by 39.5 percent since 2005; all-terrain vehicle (ATV) deaths have declined by 50 percent since 2008; and pedestrian fatalities have decreased by 19 percent over the past year.
Also, impaired driving fatalities have fallen 31.8 percent from 2007 to 2011 in Tennessee. In 2012, preliminary statistics indicate 246 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes across the state (24.1 percent). Additionally, troopers had increased their number of DUI arrests by 25.4 percent last year over 2011.
"Distracted driving is the number one killer of teens nationwide," Governor's Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole said. "Last year, teen traffic fatalities increased just over 10 percent in Tennessee. "
Another area of concern is the number of motorcycle fatalities, which have more than tripled in Tennessee in the last 14 years.
Preliminary statistics indicate 39 people have died on Tennessee roadways in 2013, one more than 2012.