Increase in traffice deaths doesn't surprise state commissioner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- State safety officials say they aren't surprised that traffic fatalities were up statewide in 2012.

Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons noted that 2011 had the lowest number of Tennessee traffic deaths in nearly a half-century and officials knew it would be difficult to replicate.

The preliminary death count for last year was 1,019 people. That was up from 937 traffic fatalities in 2011.

Preliminary statistic show more than 24 percent of 2012 traffic deaths involved alcohol. More than half of those killed weren't wearing seat belts.

Officials began alerting the public to the rising traffic death toll early last year by regularly posting the figures on the electronic highway message boards. This year the toll is being posted only on Fridays.

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