Vermont Highway Safety officials offer tips, detail programs

WATERBURY — The Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Thomas D. Anderson, and the Director of the Vermont State Police, Colonel Matthew T. Birmingham would like to express their sincere condolences to the families who have lost loved ones on Vermont's highways this year.

Of the 9 fatalities that occurred over the last 4 days, 7 occupants were not wearing seatbelts, with 1 ATV death. Law enforcement can point to many studies that indicate when a seatbelt is used, occupants of a vehicle are more likely to survive a traffic crash.

The Vermont State Police recognize the following critical areas as priorities within Vermont's Strategic Highway Safety Plan:

Seatbelt Use - To date this year, 57 percent of motor vehicle occupants in fatal crashes were unbelted. The lack of seatbelt use is the most common factor in all fatal Vermont highway crashes, and the simplest behavior to change. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unbelted vehicle occupants are 30 times more likely to be ejected during a crash.

Impaired Driving — To date this year, 44 percent of operators of motor vehicle fatalities are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. After the lack of seatbelt use, impaired driving is the second most common factor contributing to fatal crashes in Vermont. Specifically, there has been an increase in drug impaired driving on Vermont's highways, reflecting the current efforts to train officers as Drug Recognition Experts. Sixteen Vermont law enforcement officers will begin DRE training later this month to add to the current 38 officers statewide.

Speed and Aggressive Driving — From 2004 through 2015, this behavior contributed to 37 percent of all fatal crashes in Vermont, and is one of the main focuses of high visibility enforcement on Vermont's highways. Operation Safety Corridor and Operation Safe Travel on Roads In Vermont Everyday both focus on this behavior for enforcement.

Distracted Driving — Law enforcement and the public have seen an increase in usage of mobile electronic devices and other distractions by operators on Vermont highways. In 2015, Vermont law enforcement issued 3,833 traffic violations under Vermont's texting and hands-free laws. In 2016 that number increased to 4378; a 14.2 percent increase over 2015. Although under-reported, distracted driving was noted as a contributing factor in an average of 7 fatal crashes per year, accounting for 11 percent of all fatal crashes from 2011 to 2015.

The Vermont State Police, the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance and its partners have multiple annual highway safety enforcement and education efforts, including Operation Safety Corridor, Operation Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort, Operation STRIVE, Click It or Ticket, sobriety and safety checkpoints, Operation Sharp Eyes Everywhere, and more. Many of these efforts are high visibility enforcement, and are traffic safety approaches designed to deter and alter dangerous driving behaviors. Through these programs and other efforts, the Vermont State Police and its partners will continue to promote safe driving habits in our effort to save lives. We hope you will join us.


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