Tennessee Highway Patrol investigates large increase in Shelby County traffic deaths

Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Fewer people are driving during the pandemic but in Shelby County, there has been a 63% increase in fatal wrecks. The highway patrol is asking all drivers to be extra careful as they investigate why there’s been such a large increase.

According to a report by the National Safety Council, the number of miles driven in March has dropped 18% nationwide. That's why an increase in traffic deaths in Shelby County is hard for the Tennessee Highway Patrol to understand.

"If you’re going to drive fast on a congested roadway, then the odds are you’re going to drive even faster on a less congested roadway,” said Lt. Bill Miller with THP.

So far in 2020, 80 people have lost their lives in a traffic crash in Shelby County. During the same period last year, 49 people lost their lives.

That’s an increase of 31 deaths -- by far the most in the state.

"This is something that we are looking at, we are pulling crash reports, crash stats, trying to see what the analytics tells us,” said Miller.

Meanwhile, more people are beginning to feel comfortable traveling on planes.

"This past weekend was quite a bit busier than we’ve seen since early March,” said Glen Thomas a spokesperson for Memphis International Airport.

The Memphis International Airport screened about 6,000 passengers and employees over Memorial Day weekend. That number pales in comparison to previous years.

"Our biggest day on Memorial Day weekend last year was over 10,000 on a single day so it does give you a sense of how much the passenger traffic has dropped off,” Thomas said.

Officials with the Memphis airport say they expect passenger travel to continue slowly increasing this summer.

"We've seen slow but steady growth over the past few weeks,” Thomas said.

More drivers are expected to be on Shelby County roads this summer as well.

THP is urging all drivers to be extra cautious as they get behind the wheel again.

"Drive smart, arrive alive and be safe,” Lt. Miller said.

THP wants drivers who may not have been behind the wheel much these past couple weeks or months to brush up on their driving skills, and to use extra caution when they start driving again this summer.

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