There have been 24 fatalities on Washington County roads in 2012, and for family and friends who lost loved ones in these mishaps, that’s 24 fatalities too many.
On a broader scale, there are positive developments on how people are faring on America’s highways and byways. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011 saw 32,367 fatalities behind the wheel, the lowest level of traffic deaths since 1949. The number dropped by 1.9 percent from 2010 and an eye-opening 26 percent since 2005.
And though Americans drove about 1.2 percent less in 2011 than the year before, the decrease in highway fatalities exceeded the dip in the percentage of time people spent behind the wheel.
There were a few dark clouds on this horizon: The number of bicycle fatalities rose, along with the number of “distraction-driven” crashes. There also were more deaths among those who were in large trucks and motorcycle riders.
Better behavior among drivers and improved vehicle design are two of the reasons credited for the decline. But we should keep trying to make our roads safer and safer, working toward a day when a “mere” 32,367 deaths is considered shockingly high.