After achieving record-setting reductions in highway fatalities, Tennessee is now seeing a disturbing increase in crash deaths in 2012.

Tennessee Dept. of Transportation (TDOT) is reporting that from Jan. 1 through April 27 of this year the state has recorded 288 fatalities; 27 more than what occurred during the same period in 2011. In March alone, there were 104 fatalities across the state compared to 80 in March of 2011. In order to reverse the trend, TDOT and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) are implementing public communications and more aggressive enforcement of seat belt and DUI laws.

This week TDOT has begun posting a running daily roadway fatality count on overhead electronic signage in the state's urban areas along with targeted messages reminding motorists to wear seat belts, obey the speed limits and avoid texting.

THP is instituting large-scale seat belt enforcement efforts in each district, combined with tougher DUI enforcement at the same time.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said, "The bottom line is that this is an unacceptable increase, and I think it's important that drivers know just how many people have already died on our roadways this year. I'm hoping that by seeing this number it will serve as a sobering reminder to all motorists and will help change the behaviors that contribute to these deadly crashes."

"Nearly half of this year's fatalities involved motorists who were not wearing a seat belt and we know many of those victims would likely have survived, had they been," said THP Col. Tracy Trott. "Troopers will be out in force and if you are not buckled up you will get a ticket," he added.

TDOT's Governor's Highway Safety Office Director, Kendell Poole, noted that another startling statistic so far this year is the rise in motorcycle fatalities. He said that the mild winter and warm spring has led more cyclists to hit the roads earlier this year.

The locations of the 2012 crashes are being used to determine locations for additional rumble strips that alert drivers when they leave their lane, and, additional reflective raised pavement markers to increase visibility.