Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Driving fatalities dip a welcome statistic

January 16, 2008

The Lawrence Journal-World said this in an editorial Monday:

Here's hoping that a 15-year low in the number of traffic fatalities in Kansas is not a fluke but the beginning of a trend.

The Kansas Department of Transportation reported last week that 404 people died in Kansas traffic accidents in 2007. That's still 404 too many, but it represents a decline of 13 percent from the 468 fatalities in 2006. Only twice in the last 60 years have fatalities fallen below 400. That was in 1947 and 1992.

The 2007 dip in fatalities certainly is welcome news. State transportation officials attribute the decline to a number of factors including new seat belt laws and initiatives to curb drunken driving. Although figures aren't available yet for 2007, statistics for 2006 indicate that 60 percent of people who died in traffic accidents that year were not wearing proper safety restraints.

It is too early to know whether rumble strips and median barriers on some highways in the state have had a significant impact on fatalities, but it stands to reason that they would eliminate many head-on collisions and perhaps some fatalities caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Whatever its cause, last year's decline in traffic fatalities certainly is welcome news. If the lower number is partly a result of new laws and heightened awareness concerning drunken driving and seat belt use, then it also should remind us of new threats to attentive driving such as cell phone use.

As noted above, 404 fatalities in Kansas still is too many. Let's all resolve to shoot for an even lower figure next year by hanging up, buckling up and driving sober.

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