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We realize it is unlikely that writing an editorial is suddenly going to change people’s driving habits, but we have to give it a try: Come on people, slow down, hang up the phone, dial back the rage, focus on your driving.
Reckless driving is putting too many of our friends, neighbors and coworkers into the hospital, and worse, early graves.
On March 13, a father and his 5-month old infant son were seriously injured in a crash in the Franklin County town of New Sharon. A trooper passing by saw the father speeding and making unsafe passes, according to the Maine State Police. Shortly thereafter, Walker’s car hit a snow drift and crashed into a utility pole and several trees, landing on its roof.
Accidents like this, and worse, have become too common.
In January, there were 13 fatalities from car crashes in Maine, nearly double the seven recorded last January. In February, 14 Mainers died in car crashes, up 27 percent from the previous February’s 11. So far this month, there have been five traffic deaths, the same as all of last March, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
Earlier this month, the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety called the increase in road deaths “staggering.”
“Apparent contributing factors in these fatal crashes continue to be unsafe and illegal speeds, reckless driving, alcohol and drug impaired driving, and non-use of safety restraints,” the bureau said in a press release.
Maine’s trend mirrors a national spike in traffic deaths. The increases are especially troubling because Americans had been traveling less and staying home more because of the COVID pandemic.
Over the first nine months of 2021, there were nearly 32,000 deaths, the highest number recorded over the nine-month period since 2006.
The estimated figure of people dying in motor vehicle crashes from January to September 2021 was 12 percent higher than the same period in 2020. That represents the highest percentage increase over a nine-month period since the Transportation Department began recording fatal crash data in 1975. In 2020, nearly 39,000 people died in car crashes, up 8 percent over 2019.
The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety offers several tips to be safer on the road. Many of them will sound familiar.
Number one: Just drive! Everything else – including a text or phone call – can wait.
Second, slow down. “Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going so that you don’t make your problem of being late to your destination, the problem of another innocent and unsuspecting driver, rider, pedestrian, or bicyclist sharing the road with you,” the bureau reminds us.
Wear your seatbelt – it’s the law and it can save your life. According to the bureau, being partially or fully ejected from a vehicle almost always leads to serious injuries or death.
If you go out for drinks, make a plan for a safe ride home in case you get impaired.
And, if you see someone driving impaired, recklessly, or unsafely, pull over and you can call 911 to report what you saw.
None of these are new suggestions. But, tragically, they continue to go unheeded by too many drivers, sometimes with tragic consequences.