KNOX COUNTY, Tenn — In 2020, the Tennessee Highway Patrol reported the most traffic fatalities since 2006. THP said 1,217 people died on the roadways that year.
In the Knoxville district, fatalities dropped — puzzling troopers. But in 2021, traffic fatalities are again on the rise. Data showed a nearly 70 percent increase in deaths from the same time last year.
"Anybody that's on a road, please slow down," said Donald Phelps. "Watch. Be careful."
Phelps' son Danny Johlin is one of the 88 people who've died in the Knoxville district so far. Troopers say Johlin was driving down West Emory Road when he approached a car waiting to turn left onto Copper Ridge Road.
THP said he didn't stop in time, swerved to avoid hitting the car and then got hit head on by another car. He died from his injuries; the driver of the other car was also injured.
"I'll never be the same," his mother Sheila Johlin said. "He sure is going to be missed."
Sheila said she loved spending time at the pool with Danny, especially around the Fourth of July.
"That was his favorite time of the year," she said. "We were getting ready to celebrate until all this."
Sheila said Danny was a loving father and son, as well as an avid football fan. He had a big smile and a wonderful laugh.
"He loved living life. He was a Saints' fan," she said. "He was a good daddy... He left a 9-year-old son devastated and it shocked us all."
Kayla Berry said she and Danny were best friends since middle school. She was devastated to learn he is gone.
"Danny had a smile and laugh that could light up a room," she said. "He was the most giving person."