Most people in Tennessee are responsible and take appropriate caution when driving to keep themselves and others safe. Sadly, however, not everyone does this. Despite decades of public awareness and education, drinking and driving continues to be a problem that plagues the state.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1,317 lives lost at the hands of drunk drivers in Tennessee between 2012 and 2016. Knox County had far and away more drunk driving deaths during these five years than did any of its neighboring counties. In Knox County alone, there were 77 vehicular fatalities in which alcohol was a stated factor.
Of all of Knox County’s neighbors, the county with the next-highest number of drunk driving fatalties was Blount County with 27 deaths. Sevier and Anderson Counties experienced 19 and 17, respectively while in Loudon County another 11 people died. Thirty-four deaths involving alcohol were recorded across Jefferson, Grainger, Union and Roane Counties.
In looking at how many people continue to be killed by impaired drivers, it is reasonable to wonder if Tennessee’s laws on drunk driving are strict enough. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the penalties that a drunk driver may experience can vary based upon multiple factors. Some people may spend as few as two days in jail. Ignition interlock device use and length may not be long enough for some people to change their ways. It is only when a blood alcohol content exceed 0.19 percent that penalties might increase compared to a situation in which a driver’s BAC was below 0.20 percent.