As families celebrate Thanksgiving today, it is a heart-wrenching reality that there will be empty seats at dining room tables all over the country because of preventable automobile crashes.
What’s happening on the roadways is staggering:
• An average of 116 people were killed each day of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in 2015– more than 30 percent more than the daily average of 89 fatalities, the Governmental Affairs Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety reports.
• More than 35,000 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2015, an increase of more than seven percent from the previous year.
• Just under 18,000 people have been killed from January to June of this year, an increase of more than 10 percent from the same time period in 2015.
Highway crashes, and the resulting deaths, injuries and costs are a known public health problem. Luckily, there are also known solutions that involve lawmakers as well as ourselves.
Lawmakers at all levels of government should roll up their sleeves and get to work implementing some commonsense policy solutions that will curb the needless carnage.
The Road map of State Highway Safety Laws, published by Advocates annually, shows that more than 300 basic traffic safety state laws could be passed to ensure robust safety protections for all road users. For example, alcohol-impaired driving accounts for nearly a third of all traffic deaths in the U.S., yet 22 states and D.C. still need to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. And despite the reality that nearly half of passenger vehicle occupants killed are unbelted, only 18 states and D.C. have primary enforcement seat belt laws covering passengers in all seating positions.
Then there is the “us” factor.
Safe and vigilant driving is a matter of personal responsibility. Most vehicular deaths were preventable had motorists been driving safely. State troopers in Ohio will be out in force this holiday weekend to “remind” people that a little care makes accidents rare.
The U.S. Department Transportation offers:
• Driving while fatigued is the same as driving while impaired. If you are tired, pull over and get some rest. Getting to your destination safely is paramount.
• Make sure all passengers are buckled up, including children in proper child safety seats or booster seats.
• Make certain to obey speed limits — speeding is the “silent killer” on our roads, as a factor of a quarter of fatalities.
• If you plan to drink alcohol during your festivities, make sure to have a designated driver or other safe way home.
• Novice teen drivers must obey all driving restrictions, including passenger and nighttime limitations and cell phone prohibitions.
• Power off electronic devices to remove the temptation of distractions while driving. Keep your hands on the wheel and your attention on the driving task.
Most of all, remember: Accidents bring tears, safety bring cheers.