By Guy Page
Unlike much of the recent news, this story is not about people dying tragically, abruptly, and unexpectedly. It is about fewer people than usual dying in this horrific manner.
During the first half of 2019, deaths on Vermont highways are down by almost two-thirds, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) reported August 2.
Statistically, Vermont experiences approximately 25-35 fatalities on its highways through the end of July, AOT said. This year, there have been 13 fatalities. While the number of fatalities fluctuates from year to year, the low 2019 fatality date is noteworthy. Through the end of July, in 2018, there were 36 fatalities; in 2017, there were 31; and in 2016, there were 36.
There are several possible reasons for the lower fatality rate so far this year, AOT said. One predominant reason is that motorists are making better decisions. AOT highway safety experts believe that there is greater public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“While the reduction in the fatality rate so far this year is worth noting, we must be mindful that thirteen people lost their lives,” said Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn. “One fatality is one too many.”
Thanks to the Newport Dispatch, one of Vermont’s growing number of online community newspapers, for carrying this story.
The State of Vermont has a three-pronged approach to fight distracted driving, according to the Vermont State Highway Safety Office:
Annual “Attitude Survey” – This is done to acquire attitudes of drivers behind the wheel about various subjects including: enforcement of the laws, seat belt use, texting and driving, child car seat use, and general personal behavior of Vermont drivers.
Community Education – The State works in close collaboration with multiple highway safety partners to educate the public on the dangers of Distracted Driving. This includes hands-on interactive programs put on by the Youth Safety Council of Vermont, and drivers education programs organized by the Windham County Sheriff’s Department.
Fines – according to VSA 1099, “Drivers caught using a hand-held device will be fined a penalty of not less than $100 and not more than $200 for a first violation, and of not less than $250 and not more than $500 for a second or subsequent violation within any two-year period.”
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.