Work­ing to cut traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics re­leased Tues­day by the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, traf­fic-re­lated crashes killed 520 peo­ple in the state last year. That is 77 more peo­ple than in 2014, MDOT of­fi­cials said.

The state showed ad­di­tional in­creases, as well. Ac­cord­ing to the re­lease, 2015 saw a 35 per­cent in­crease in com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties and a 26 per­cent in­crease in young driver-in­volved fa­tal­i­ties. Bi­cy­cle fa­tal­i­ties dou­bled from five in 2014 to 10 in 2015, the re­lease states.

“This tragic in­crease in peo­ple killed on our road­ways is un­ac­cept­able,” said Deputy Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Jim Ports in a state­ment. “For all of us ded­i­cat­ing our lives to high­way safety, this in­crease in fa­tal­i­ties is a call to ac­tion to strengthen and ex­pand our ef­forts to save lives on our roads.”

At an April 26 news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the traf­fic safety sta­tis­tics, state of­fi­cials gave the five lead­ing causes of deaths on Mary­land’s roads: im­paired driv­ing, speed­ing, dis­tracted driv­ing, fail­ure to wear seat belts and not us­ing cross­walks.

“We lose 100 peo­ple ev­ery day on our na­tion’s road­ways, and ev­ery sin­gle one of these deaths is pre­ventable,” said Deb­o­rah A.P. Hers­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional Safety Coun­cil, in a state­ment. “This uptick in crashes is serv­ing no­tice: We need to pri­or­i­tize our safety. Driv­ing de­fen­sively and staying alert can help us re­verse this trend in 2016.”

Ac­cord­ing to the state’s “To­ward Zero Deaths” cam­paign web­site, more than 28,000 peo­ple in Mary­land are in­jured each year in dis­tracted driver-re­lated crashes, im­paired driv­ers killed 856 peo­ple in the last five years, 80 peo­ple are in­jured each week be­cause they were not wear­ing seat belts and 100 pedes­tri­ans are killed each year in accidents.

We join MDOT, the state police and oth­ers in urg­ing ev­ery­one to fol­low traf­fic safety laws and to take ad­di­tional pre­cau­tions to turn the tide of ris­ing fa­tal­i­ties.

Do not drink and drive. Have a plan be­fore go­ing out. Line up a des­ig­nated driver or a cab. Car ser­vices like Uber are grow­ing more pop­u­lar and prov­ing to be more ac­ces­si­ble than ever, mak­ing any ex­cuse in­ex­cus­able.

Leave your phone alone. Stay off your phone while driv­ing. No tex­ting, no check­ing email and no surf­ing the web. It can all wait un­til you safely park your car.

Put your seat belt on. Ac­cord­ing to state sta­tis­tics, more than 200 peo­ple are killed in crashes each year be­cause they did not buckle up.

Drive care­fully. That means watch your speed, look twice for mo­tor­cy­clists, pay extra at­ten­tion when trav­el­ing in a work zone and move over for emer­gency ve­hi­cles.

“Police of­fi­cers in Mary­land rec­og­nize the im­por­tant mis­sion we have in re­duc­ing traf­fic crashes,” Mary­land State Police Su­per­in­ten­dent Col. Wil­liam Pal­lozzi said in a state­ment. “Our strict en­force­ment of traf­fic laws is a daily re­minder to driv­ers that our laws are in place for their safety and vi­o­la­tion of those laws im­pacts the safety of ev­ery­one on our roads. Our goal con­tin­ues to be chang­ing driver be­hav­ior by en­force­ment that is fo­cused on those ar­eas and driv­ing be­hav­iors where the need is great­est.”

Gov. Larry Ho­gan is­sued a state­ment April 26 about his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to im­prove high­way safety. He spoke about stricter in­ter­lock ig­ni­tion laws for drunk driv­ers and in­creased fund­ing for the state police. He said his ad­min­is­tra­tion has ear­marked $1.97 bil­lion in road and bridge projects through­out the state.

“Ul­ti­mately, ev­ery cit­i­zen of this state has a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity. We all need to slow down; al­ways drive sober; pay at­ten­tion at all times; keep an eye out for work­ers in con­struc­tion zones; look out for mo­tor­cy­clists, bi­cy­clists, and pedes­tri­ans; use cross­walks; and make sure ev­ery per­son is wear­ing a seat belt or prop­erly fas­tened in a child safety seat. If we all com­mit to safety on our roads, to­gether we can make a dif­fer­ence and save lives,” Ho­gan said.

We urge ev­ery­one — mo­torists, bi­cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans — to be safe. So many tragedies can be avoided by tak­ing the proper pre­cau­tions.

Learn more at to­wardze­rodeathsmd.com.

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