Commentary: Safety goes beyond obeying traffic lawsBeautiful summer days are typically the deadliest time on roads in Minnesota; this summer has been no exception.
By: Ashlyn Christianson, The Republican Eagle
Beautiful summer days are typically the deadliest time on roads in Minnesota; this summer has been no exception.
The first week of August brought in 191 traffic deaths this year and six of those deaths were our neighbors, brothers, co-workers and classmates in Goodhue County.
This means that even though the state fatal numbers have been the lowest since 1944, Goodhue County remains unchanged. Why? The Toward Zero Deaths Fatal Review Committee is investigating to find out.
The goal of the Fatal Review Committee is to find the cause of the fatal crash, and then figure out solutions to prevent it from occurring again. It is important to hold fatal reviews because you cannot fix a problem if you don’t know what is causing it.
The problem in our local communities is that a high number people are being seriously injured or dying in preventable traffic related crashes each year.
The fatal reviews are a private process where the four E’s are present to review the crash: Emergency Medical Services, Law Enforcement, Engineers and a public health Educator. These individuals are included in the Fatal Review Committee because they are directly involved in the crash either before (road design) or after the incident (response time).
Fatal reviews began in the spring of 2011 with Toward Zero Deaths grant funding. Unfortunately, these reviews continue to be held quarterly due to the high number of traffic deaths in Goodhue County.
Since 2011 the Fatal Review Committee has reviewed nine fatal crashes that have involved 11 deaths. These reviews do not yet include the two fatal crashes that occurred last month.
The committee keeps an eye out for trends like: Do these crashes all happen during a certain time of day? Are the drivers all the same age? Are they head-on, right angle or single vehicle crashes? Did they involve pedestrians?
At this time, the only consistency found in every fatal crash is that they all involved male drivers and half were not belted.
The Fatal Review Committee has found that even though we would like to call these accidents and blame them on things like weather, animals or the road, the fact of the matter is that these crashes are not accidents, they are preventable and they are attributed directly to driver behavior.
The reviews seem to circle around the question that if hundreds or thousands of vehicles travel this road every day without incident, what was different about this driver’s behavior that resulted in a crash? Now that we know the behavior, what is a cost effective way to prevent it in the future?
Did the driver have the proper license? Were they driving too fast for road conditions? Did they have alcohol or medication in their system? Was the vehicle properly serviced? Were they thrown from the vehicle, and did they have room to live if they had been buckled in?
What you can do
What do we do now? The obvious answer, of course, is to obey the traffic laws.
But even more so, we need to support our local law enforcement in their efforts to prevent fatal crashes from happening. The next time someone complains about getting pulled over and says, “cops should be doing more important things,” remind them that more people die in traffic crashes than they do in a shooting — even though a rare incident like a shooting gets more media attention.
I also recommend being a defensive driver. Just because you are a great driver doesn’t mean that another distracted driver will see you before slamming into your vehicle.
Always buckle up and require that your passengers buckle up too. Your passenger’s unbuckled body could crush you and cause serious injury in a crash.
You might think that fender benders aren’t important, but even if you may not have personal ties to a crash, the costs that impact the community still affect you.
Costs may include a coworker missing work, lifetime physical therapy or caretaker costs, insurance rate increases, road closures, grief counseling, construction costs like adding rumble strips, and more.
People may say they have the right to do what they want in their vehicle, but they forget that driving is a privilege and we all pick up the tab when the bill comes after a crash.
Each and every life or death has an impact on our small communities so be sure to take responsibly for your driving and speak up when others don’t.
More information on Toward Zero Deaths can be found at www.minnesotatzd.org or by emailing email@example.com.