Traffic deaths up by 50% in Memphis area this year, state reports

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The year 2020 has proven itself to be a dangerous and deadly year for Mid-South drivers. 

Traffic fatalities in the Memphis area are up 50% compared to last year, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security reports. 

According to the state’s data, 245 people have died on Memphis-area roadways this year. The numbers include 10 counties in West Tennessee.

That’s in increase of more than 80 fatalities from last year, surpassing every metro area in the state, including Nashville.

Sgt. Chris Richardson with Tennessee Highway Patrol said they aren’t sure why 2020 has become such a dangerous year for drivers, but he fears it may only get worse. 

The cause, Richardson said: “It’s the things that are always killing folks on the road. It’s speeding, it’s distracted driving.”

Richardson said another factor leading to road fatalities is the fact many drivers are not wearing their seatbelts. Data shows at least 73 people who died did not have on a seatbelt.

Data shows teen driver and pedestrian deaths are also up.

Wednesday night, Memphis Police say 61-year-old Destin Smith was hit and killed while walking along Interstate 40 near Germantown Road, adding to the growing list.

But all hope is not lost for the future of Memphis drivers.

Crystal Caulfield with the Boys & Girls Club said they’re able to educate teens on how to be more responsible drivers through a driving simulation program.

“We’ve used this program to actually launch a drivers education program at our center,” Caulfield said. “So, now more of our teens are getting their drivers license and they know the importance of insurance.”

Related: Tennessee traffic fatality data

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