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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More traffic accidents could occur this July 4 because the holiday falls on a Thursday, a University of Tennessee traffic specialist said Tuesday.

Dr. Steve Richards, who heads UT’s Transportation Center, said a four-day weekend for vacationers often results in more traffic and more accidents.

“It also means more opportunities for drunk drivers,” Richards said.

Tennessee Highway Patrol says its officers will work about 100 extra shifts during the holiday period, which runs from 6 p.m. on Wednesday until midnight Sunday.

In 1995, the state reported 15 people killed in July 4 crashes in Tennessee — the lowest number of deaths recorded for a 102-hour Fourth of July period.

Richards said that overall, however, traffic fatalities in Tennessee and across the nation are increasing.

“Accidents have been increasing for the last two years, and that certainly is a concern to us,” Richards said. “With a major holiday coming up, people should be aware that we are in a period of increasing fatalities and be extra cautious.”

Contact: Steve Richards (423-974-5255)