Christopher Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA),thinks progress is being made towards making America’s roadways safer, but that it’s occurring at a very slow pace.
“The preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that in 2006 there were 43,330 deaths overall, compared to 43,443 in 2005,” he said. “While we are always pleased to see a decline, far too many people continue to lose their lives in preventable traffic crashes.”
However, Murphy said there are a few signs of optimism – one being a significant drop in fatalities from large truck crashes. “Fatalities from large truck crashes dropped by 3.7% and pedestrians deaths also made a slight decline,” he said. “We are also very pleased that injuries are projected down by 6%, likely in part due to an increase in safety-belt use. In fact, nonfatal crashes are projected below six million for the first time.”
However, an increase in motorcycle fatalities and a 2.4% in alcohol-related fatalities are particularly disheartening, he said. Murphy added that state highway safety offices report that excessive speeding by motorists has reduced the expected gains in lives saved by high seat belt use.
One item GSHA plans to focus on vigorously in the coming months is the passage of more primary seat-belt laws across the country. “Passage of such a law results in a state’s safety belt use rate rising 8 to 12 percentage points, which translates into hundreds of lives saved,” he said. “Along with passing these laws, high-visibility enforcement campaigns are key to increasing safety belt use.”