As you drive along any of our Vermont highways, it is hard to ignore the sobering message that the Vermont Department of Transportation is hoping to convey by illuminating the total number of traffic fatalities on its roadside signs. The harsh reality, however, is that so far this year there have been 202 major road crashes resulting in 196 suspected serious injuries and 63 fatalities.
Vermont is not alone. The United States holds the unfortunate distinction of having the most dangerous roads in the world, with a fatality rate that is 40 percent higher than our Canadian neighbors to the north.
For years fatalities on American roads were on the decline, but in 2016 the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by 6 percent compared to the previous year. Put into actual numbers, this equals a staggering 37,461 lives lost due to motor vehicle accidents in 2016.
While cars are equipped with better and better safety technology, and awareness of the dangers of texting and driving is on the rise (distracted driving deaths fell 2.2 percent in 2016), the primary causes behind the increase in fatalities still remain risky behaviors such as speeding and not wearing seatbelts.
There are four easy steps you can take to make sure that you, your family and friends, and your fellow drivers safely make it to and from your destinations this Thanksgiving:
- Obey the speed limit. A recent survey by the National Safety Council (NSC) found that 64 percent of respondents say they are comfortable speeding, which led the NSC President and CEO to proclaim, “our complacency is killing us.” Indeed, the number of deaths due to speeding went up 4.4 percent in 2016.
- Wear a seat belt. A stunning one out of seven Americans do not wear a seat belt, which is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. More than half of teens (13-19 years) and adults aged 20-44 years who died in crashes in 2015 were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
- Don’t drink and drive. From 2012 to 2016, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roads. Before drinking this holiday, plan ahead and make sure you have a designated driver or alternative transportation home.
- Avoid distracted driving. Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. Texting is not the only way to be distracted while driving; anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving can endanger lives.
At CVMC we encourage you to be safe while driving this Thanksgiving.
Learn more, watch this UVM Medical Center video on The Consequences of Distracted Driving: