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Editorial: Highway safety requires constant attention

November 30, 2018

For the majority of people, driving is the most dangerous thing we do each day.

And as the 21st century moves into its adulthood, the level of distracted driving related to cellphone use - texting, calling, looking at digital maps - adds significantly to that danger.

A number of state agencies have combined to create the Delaware Strategic Highway Safety Plan, aiming to cut annual highway fatalities in half by 2035. That would put figures in the 50s instead of the 100s.

Much of the focus is on reducing speeding, aggressive driving, impaired driving and failure-to-use a seat belt violations. These factors contribute to most of the more than 115 fatalities - on average - recorded on state roads each year.

The plan includes engineering, design and enforcement initiatives to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. They will help, but real reductions will come from more responsible driving.

Reducing distracted-driving crashes - which DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan this week called an epidemic - isn’t listed as part of the safety plan, though clearly it should be. According to one report, there were 224 crashes in 2017 involving cellphone use with 7 fatalities among them.

Signs posted along Delaware highways report each year’s fatality count. Some list those involving alcohol. Speeding and cellphone use should be added. Public awareness can make a difference. Police investigators should be just as quick to release cellphone use as contributing to crashes as they are to cite alcohol.

When the state gets truly serious about reducing speeding deaths, legislators will enable the use of cameras in strategic locations. If they discourage some drivers from coming to Delaware, so be it. We could use less congestion.

The efforts from the strategic safety plan may be having a positive effect. So far in 2018 there have been 96 fatalities compared to 106 at this point in 2017. In those numbers, though, motorcycle deaths have almost doubled, from 10 in 2017 to 17 in 2018.

Clearly we can’t let up. It will take years and continuous efforts to make our highways safer.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.