Editorial

Only we collectively can prevent fatal traffic crashes

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

Not long ago and not far away, I attended a seminar on traffic safety put together by the Michigan State Police. After his interesting speech, I had the chance to ask the trooper for his candid opinions about the causes of fatal traffic crashes.

I asked the trooper how we collectively in society could minimize the number of fatal crashes, that recently have increased again after a period of declines. He told me there are four fatal crash causes that could be avoided easily by motorists if they just had the will and the motivation:

• Drinking and driving.

If only people would follow the old saying I heard more than 60 years ago — “if you drive don’t drink, if you drink don’t drive.”
But that might hurt the economic bottom lines of bars and special events that serve up the horizontal lubricant.
It wasn’t until recent years that news media stories about fatal traffic crashes included information about whether alcohol was involved in the incident. It was long overdue.

• Use of seat belts.

I too often have read or heard stories about fatal crash victims who were thrown from their vehicles. And, of course, there are many other instances in which such victims could have survived if they had just “clicked it.”

• Speeding.

This one is all too common, and it’s really difficult for cops to catch motorists with lead feet. It seems when you drive five miles per hour over the posted speed limit, you’re the slowpoke on the freeway.
Is there such a thing as a good excuse for speeding?
I can remember a woman riding on the back of motorcycle going 110 saying, “It’s in God’s hands now!”
I also remember the tale of a colleague who bragged that when he learned his toddler son was in the hospital he ignored almost all stop signs and drove like a bat out of hell. Yet his presence at the hospital wasn’t really necessary.

• Distracted driving.

This one has climbed the charts for traffic crash reasons over the past decades because of the massive use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. It’s gotten so bad I’ve seen bumper stickers shouting, “Hang up and drive!” Of course, some of the worst offenders engage in texting while driving.

A much quieter distracted driving offender is the proliferation of billboards along the highways. They are put there on purpose to get you to notice them. Even while you should be paying attention to what’s happening on the road.
There’s probably no way any legislator will agree to taking down some billboards. That would be restraining commerce, even though it may save human lives.
Kinda reminds me of the local legislators who went to bat for a restaurant owner who didn’t enforce mask mandates during the Covid pandemic.
So if we, and I mean we, citizens could bring ourselves not to speed, not to drink and drive, be vigilant about using seat belts and avoid distractions, the trooper agreed with my suggested conclusion that the number of traffic fatalities would decrease significantly.
In all four of these cases, the choice is ours. But we’d have less freedom.

1 Comment

  • All of those points are certainly valid. Although, while using a seatbelt *could* prevent a fatality should an individual end up in a crash, by no means do seatbelts, whether used or not, cause a fatal traffic accident. Clearly the use of seatbelts don’t solve everything or they would be on motorcycles and busses.

    I once had a co-worker say to me he believed the reason road rage has increased over the years (another looming cause of roadway deaths) is due to the increase in performance of everyday cars. When he was young everything was slower, slow to accelerate and decelerate. So, you couldn’t just blow by people at a whim. Now, that cars are built to accelerate and decelerate very quickly people are more confident to try to cut through traffic aggressively, tailgate more closely, and drive at higher rates of speed. The older I get, the more truth I see in his comment. There was a day only the gearheads and ultra wealthy had fast cars. Now, the majority of people do.

    The first time I saw a person with a book above the steering wheel I was shocked. Now most are out there texting and driving.

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