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Editorial: How serious are we about fatalities?

September 21, 2018

DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe wrote about highway safety in a recent commentary. They noted that fatalities on state roads are running ahead of this point last year. Recent statistics show 79 fatalities in 2018 compared to 74 in 2017.

They know they have a long way to go, but their stated goal, of course, is to reduce that number to zero.

They identify five areas of focus for helping Delaware drivers reduce fatalities: using seat belts more; eliminating impaired driving, aggressive driving, and distracted driving, primarily cellphones; and obeying posted speed limits.

A  few remarkable numbers: Motorcyclists are having a rough year - 13 fatalities this year compared to 9 at this point in 2017; vehicle occupant deaths, not drivers, also not doing so well - 47 so far this year compared to 41 at this point in 2017; pedestrians are doing a little better this year - 19 deaths at this point in 2017 compared to 15 so far in 2018.

Statistics also show DUI arrests in 2018 running behind the pace at this point in 2017. Officers were issuing 358 DUI arrests per month in 2017. This year, that pace has decreased to 318 per month. The answer could be reduced enforcement; or, more likely and hopefully, drivers are heeding an aggressive public awareness campaign.

The most striking statistic in all of the numbers shows there were 39 fatalities due to alcohol- or drug-impaired driving in 2017 compared to 15 at this point in 2018. Whatever strategies are being used to reduce impaired driving, they are working.

As for distracted and aggressive driving, and speeding, Delaware could use technology to boast the nation’s safest roads. Using randomly placed speed cameras would create greater speed-limit compliance. Requiring devices that disable phone use when vehicles are in motion would eliminate distracted driving.

It’s all just a matter of how seriously the secretaries, and Legislature, take their zero-fatality goal.

 

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