Each year, more than 30,000 Americans die sudden and avoidable deaths in motor vehicle collisions. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of more than three-quarters of the population of Mount Laurel or nearly half the population of Cherry Hill. These people are killed in the middle of living their lives. They leave behind loving families, devoted friends, promising careers, and unfinished personal goals.
This needs to stop.
Today, October 10, 2014, is Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. We as a nation should make safety a priority every single day, but unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. In fact, fatal crash rates have increased in recent years, jumping by more than 1,000 from 2011 to 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. So, the National Society of Professional Engineers, with the help of other organizations and agencies, stress safety on October 10th of every year “so that for at least one day, there will be no fatalities” on the roads, according to the official State of New Jersey Website.
Join us in putting the brakes on fatalities and making this October 10th fatality-free.
The Speeding Factor
“Put the Brakes on Fatalities” isn’t just a clever name. Speeding is such a prevalent factor in deadly car crashes that we’re literally talking about the need to slow down. Speeding contributes to 30 percent of deadly motor vehicle accidents each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It costs more than 13,000 lives and $40,000,000,000 annually, the National Safety Council reported. Crashes that involve speeding also often include other risk factors, as well – like drunk driving and failing to wear a seat belt. Evidence shows that speeding is like many other bad driving habits: drivers know it’s dangerous, but engage in it anyway.
When you speed, you’re focusing on the small details – the number on a clock or the number of minutes you can shave off of your trip – but ignoring the big picture. Every time you get behind the wheel, you take your life in your hands, not to mention the lives of the other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road with you. You’re operating a vehicle that literally weighs tons of pounds at such a speed that its impact can be deadly in a collision. Don’t we all have the responsibility not to increase the risks by driving faster than we should? Isn’t it selfish for any of us to think that saving a few minutes of our time is worth putting the safety of others in greater danger?
There’s no way to explain to a grieving parent, child, spouse, or best friend that their loved one died because you were in a hurry.
Every Fatality Counts – and So Does Every Factor in Accidents
If we really want to put the brakes on fatalities, we need to do more than slow down. We need to put away the things – cell phones, GPS systems, newspapers, tablets, drive-through fast food meals – that distract us from what should be our only task: paying attention to the road. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have driving – it’s not enough. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, driving requires your full attention.
We need to resolve never to drink and drive. Period. Not, “unless I’m only driving a couple of blocks home.” Not, “unless I don’t feel like calling for a ride or a taxi.” Never. An accident can happen in the couple of blocks you are driving impaired, and it will cost you way more than the taxi fare would have.
It’s imperative that we are all mindful of others on the road, no matter what our role is. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen drivers ignore pedestrians even in marked crosswalks, doing everything right. They drive by without even slowing down, putting those pedestrians at risk. Pedestrians, too, need to follow the rules of the road. They need to cross at crosswalks instead of jaywalking. At intersections governed by traffic lights, they must wait until they have the right of way – not just run out in front of cars that have the green light and expect them to miraculously stop without warning. Bicyclists need to stay in bike lanes where they exist, ride single file, and follow all traffic safety laws just as a motorist would do. Every one of us can do our part to make our streets and intersections safer.
Hundreds – if not more – of ghost bikes like this memorialize cyclists killed on the roadways. We all have the right to be safe, no matter what mode of transportation we use. Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons license).
Maybe you’re not surprised by the statistics. After all, deadly crashes happen every day. However, behind each and every number is a life, a person who never came home, a person whose loved ones received a devastating phone call that shattered life as they knew it. We all deserve safer roads. We all deserve the opportunity to make it home alive. So let’s all make a promise to make the roads a little safer today – and hopefully for many more days.