Our view: Cops alone can't stem traffic fatalities

August in Vermont began with a string of four car crashes that killed seven people. This prompted state police to hold a press conference urging drivers to wear seatbelts. Police also increased their traffic patrols. They will be doing so again for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

We hope the amount of cops out will help reduce the number of crashes, but Thomas Anderson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said it best at the press conference which was covered by VTDigger.

"Ultimately, this is a responsibility of every driver that's out there to drive responsibly, to slow down, don't text, and put your seat belt on," Anderson said.

The Vermont State Police website has some interesting statistics on fatal crashes.

In 2016, there were 39 fatalities in 36 Vermont crashes. As of this year, we're already up to 40 fatalities spread over 35 crashes. Fatal crashes are on the upswing in our state since a lull in 2014 where we had 26 fatalities in 25 crashes. We haven't reached 2012 levels, yet, which saw 51 people die in 45 crashes.

Of the fatalities since 2012, 37 percent weren't wearing a seat belt while 32 percent were. Fifteen percent of fatal crashes were motorcycle drivers. Ten percent were pedestrians. Only in 2 percent of cases was it not known if the deceased was belted in. Seventy percent of fatal crash victims are men. Forty-seven percent of the time the deceased was the driver. Many fatal crashes involved alcohol or other drug use. Many others involve drivers being distracted by their cell phones and similar devices.

We agree with the police. While there's certainly a role to be played here by law enforcement, ultimately people need to do the right thing and drive safely. Obey speed limits, pay attention, don't be distracted by cell phones or anything else, buckle up, and don't use drugs or alcohol and get behind the wheel.

Stories about fatal crashes are among our least favorite things to publish. There have been some truly terrible ones over the years. Sometimes what led to them isn't entirely clear, other times it is. Either way, it's sad for everyone involved.

People often complain than police spend too much time writing traffic tickets and setting up checkpoints. Given the fatality numbers, maybe they don't spend enough time running traffic patrols. Who knows, maybe they could afford to do them less often if people slowed down, buckled up, and paid attention.

Let's try it and see.


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