Good driving choices reduce vehicle crashes, fatalities

An increase in highway fatalities nationwide for 2012 serves to remind Idaho drivers to make the right choices this winter and never drive distracted, impaired or aggressively.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports the number of auto-related fatalities across the U.S. increased by 1,000 last year to 33,561. However, the yearly auto-related death toll remains at historically low levels.

Idaho is no exception. Despite a steady decline in highway fatalities statewide, from 232 in 2008 to 167 in 2011, fatalities increased to 184 last year, according to ITD statistics.

Preliminary numbers from ITD for October show 27 fatalities for the month, seven more than the 20 recorded for the same period last year.

“Buckling up, staying alert and obeying traffic laws significantly help to drive down vehicle crashes that result in fatalities,” said Brent Jennings, highway safety manager for ITD.

If everyone had buckled their seat belt in 2012, ITD estimates that 37 lives could have been saved.

“Single-vehicle run-off-the-road crashes contribute significantly to fatalities and serious injuries,” Jennings explained. “Over-correction, which causes the vehicle to roll, leads to occupants being ejected when seat belts are not used.”

In 2012, vehicle crashes involving an impaired driver contributed to 40 percent of deaths on all Idaho roadways. Inattentive or distracted driving and excessive speed also were leading contributors.

“Making the conscious choice to not drive distracted, impaired or aggressively gives everyone on the roadway the best possible chance of returning home safely at the end of the day,” Jennings said.

“The motorist is our best highway safety partner,” he added. “All Idahoans are encouraged to think about the choices made when driving.”

Jennings encouraged drivers to put cell phones down, avoid other distractions, ensure that everyone is wearing a seat, follow speed limits and drive at safer speeds when weather or other conditions warrant.

Motorists need to take extra care when driving on the state’s rural highways, where three out of four Idaho motor-vehicle crashes occur.

Published 12-6-13