Shelby County leads state in fatal car accidents, officials say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Law enforcement across West Tennessee is asking drivers to put their phones down and pay attention to the road.

The Tennessee Highway Safety Office launched its Operation Hands Free campaign in an effort to slow down the number of crash fatalities in the state.

Fatal crashes in Tennessee are on the rise, but they’ve become especially concerning in one location: Memphis.

Jason Ivey is the deputy director of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.

“It is the city of Memphis. It’s Shelby right now and it’s not even the county. It’s the city of Memphis,” Ivey said.

Officials hope the campaign will help people put their phones down and avoid other distractions while they’re behind the wheel.

“Everyone should think about their families. The loss you could simply have by not focusing on the road,” Ivey said.

Ivey says distracted driving plays a huge part in the uptick in fatal car crashes over the last three years.

Across Tennessee, there have been 273 fatal crashes so far in 2022.

67 of them happened in Shelby County, the most in the state, data shows.

Ivey said with additional resources and everyone working together to end distracted driving, hopefully, Shelby County will see a much-needed decrease.

Memphis Police Colonel Keith Watson leads the MPD traffic division.

Watson says over the last year Memphis Police officers have stayed busy cracking down on distracted driving, especially on the interstate.

“We did better,” he said. “We ended 2021 in a better place than 2020. We only saw a three percent increase. There is room for improvement.”