published Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Welcome plunge in traffic deaths in Chattanooga

It is scarcely a secret that we Americans have a love affair with our cars.

They give us a personal freedom of movement -- at our convenience and not on the timetable of public transportation systems -- that is probably unmatched anywhere in the world.

With any kind of transportation, however, there are dangers, including the property damage, injuries and deaths that come from automobile accidents.

Newly released figures show that there were about 930 traffic fatalities in Tennessee in 2011.

Obviously those are deaths that we wish had never taken place. But there is at least one bit of good news despite that painful statistic: Traffic fatalities in 2011 were actually fewer in number than they had been in almost five decades.

We have to go all the way back to 1962 in the Volunteer State to find a year when there were fewer such fatalities than there were last year. In 1962, the total came to 811.

The worst year was 1973, when a shocking 1,444 people died on Tennessee's roads.

Many factors no doubt contributed to the relatively good numbers for 2011. Cars have more safety features today than they had in the past, for example, and more people are using lifesaving seat belts. Plus, there has been a strong and entirely appropriate focus on the dangers of drunken driving.

Still, each of the deaths that did occur on our state's roads is a tragedy for the victim and for the victim's friends and family.

That highlights one New Year's resolution that would plainly be worth keeping: to drive more safely and thus to reduce the number of traffic accidents -- in Tennessee or wherever you may roam.

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