KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tuesday’s fatal car wreck on I-40 near Strawberry Plains is just the latest in a deadly year for Tennessee roadways.

In Tuesday’s crash, Knoxville Police Officers responded to a call about a crash with injuries on I-40 E near McMillan Road. Upon arrival, they found the driver of a vehicle traveling westbound had lost control and crossed into the eastbound lanes, hitting another vehicle. Ultimately, one person died and two others were hurt.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to ask about guardrails.

“We have our guardrails, and our cable-barrier rails, concrete barriers in certain areas in an effort to try to keep folks from crossing into another area,” explained TDOT Spokesperson Mark Nagi.

“There’s a complicated formula in terms of why we put barriers in some places and what kind of barriers that we put in,” Nagi continued. “It deals with crash history, it deals with the slope, so it’s not easy to try to say whether and area should have barriers in an area or not.”

Nagi also talked about the number of traffic related deaths so far this year, saying it’s concerning. So far in 2021, 1,277 people have been killed on Tennessee roads. In 2019 at this time, 1,160 people had been killed. Looking at records from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, this year marks the most traffic related deaths since 2006.

Nagi said part of the increase could be linked to more people getting back on the road since the pandemic. “That’s something that I think has to be factored in when you start to look at some of these numbers,” he said. “No matter what, these numbers are concerning, one fatality on our roadways is too many.”

He fears these numbers could get worse with the holidays just around the corner.

Stephanie Milani with AAA said drivers being distracted and speeding are two of the biggest issues. “We find that people who are distracted are twice as likely to get into a crash,” she said. “When you add the speed factor on top of that, again, it’s more than most drivers can handle.”

Milani also said it’s not just devices that can be distracting.

“Other distractions can be something as simple as kids in the backseat, an argument that you had with your boss or your spouse, it can just be daydreaming about those Christmas presents that you still need to get or what you still need to do for the upcoming party,” she added.

Milani and Nagi agree that in the end it’s about focusing on what’s right in front of you.

“That’s why you have to make sure that every single time that you are behind the wheel that you are concentrating 100% on the task at hand,” said Nagi.

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