- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Chattanooga police are stepping up traffic enforcement after a report showing fatal traffic accidents increased last year.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/KM9c7e) reports records show the city had 28 traffic fatalities last year, half of which were related to alcohol use.

In 2012, the city had 22 total traffic fatalities, nine of which were related to alcohol use.

Overall, traffic fatalities in Tennessee decreased in 2013.

“We’re going to be increasing the bar checks. We’re going to be holding bars accountable if they are serving people to the point of intoxication,” said Chattanooga Traffic Sgt. David Gibb.

The traffic unit arrested 304 people for DUI in 2012. That went down to 248 DUI arrests in 2013. This year, the number is expected to go back up.

The traffic unit has added five officers to its traffic unit in recent months for a total of 15.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokeswoman Carol Ronis said she hopes a state law that went into effect in July will help bring down the number of alcohol-related fatalities. The law requires anyone convicted of DUI to have ignition interlocks installed in their vehicle.

Statistics show the statewide number of alcohol-related fatalities is declining. According to records, 29 percent of traffic fatalities in 2012 were the result of alcohol-related crashes. That decreased to 24.1 percent in 2013, according to preliminary statistics.

“We hope to see a significant reduction in drunk-driving fatal crashes in this state,” Ronis said.

Gibbs said he thinks it will take more than the ignition law to deter motorists from drinking too much before driving. He said people will have to change their views on drinking and driving.

Gibbs said media attention is usually focused on homicide deaths. He said the victims of violent crimes often are at risk for getting hurt due to the lifestyles they lead.

He said that’s not necessarily the case with traffic crashes.

“These are families getting killed driving down the road,” he said.

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