The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, May 20, 2022 1:00 am

Editorial

Buckling down on buckling up

Driving protections continue to increase in importance

Last year, traffic deaths in the United States hit their highest mark in more than 15 years. The nearly 43,000 people who died was a 10.5% increase over 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported on Tuesday.

Although Indiana's 7.5% increase in traffic deaths last year was lower than the national tally, it's still cold comfort for the families and friends of the 914 fellow Hoosiers who perished last year.

The administration's Click It or Ticket campaign begins Monday and runs through June 5. It's baffling to see how many Hoosiers still don't buckle up despite years of evidence that seat belts save lives.

“In FY 2021, there were 506 fatalities in rural Indiana (55.4% of all fatalities), with 31% of rural fatalities being unrestrained, while 36% of urban fatalities were unrestrained,” the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute states in a 2021 traffic safety report released in late February.

Sure, enforcement measures such as Click It or Ticket are aggravating, but there's no logic in courting a ticket from law enforcement for not performing a simple, life-saving act. Bravado and obstinance may get you killed, and unnecessarily so.

“As we continue to see an increase in traffic deaths across the country, risky driving behaviors, like failing to wear a seat belt, continue to be a contributing factor,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, administrator of the traffic safety administration. “Click It or Ticket isn't about citations; it's about saving lives.”

Administration projections place Indiana among the 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to record an increase in traffic deaths in 2021. This a continuation from the increase in 2020. Before 2020, taccidents had decreased three years running.. It's a robust set of issues that have pushed the number of traffic deaths higher.

“NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have been higher,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

In an analysis last November, Bloomberg News said faster speeds, larger engines and sizable vehicles add to the problem.

“We know from research we've done that a greater amount of horsepower equals higher speeds traveled, and we know higher speeds traveled leads to a higher number of crashes with higher severity,” Bloomberg quoted David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, as saying.

Whether it's our behavior or the attributes of our automobiles, the calculus of this crisis has meant, at least for Indiana, that we're not meeting metrics set by the criminal justice institute.

In its 2021 traffic safety report, the institute stated Hoosiers recorded lower death rates in three of 11 traffic safety administration core measures: alcohol-impaired driving deaths, motorcyclists who died from not wearing a helmet and fatalities per 100 million miles traveled.

Welcome news, but we fell far short in areas such as serious injuries as a result of accidents, speed-related fatalities, motorcyclist fatalities and pedestrian deaths.

All of this is information to consider as we drive through neighborhoods, down boulevards and on country roads and highways over the next few weeks. It's our choice to control how we drive to protect ourselves, our passengers and the people with whom we share the road.


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