Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete K. Rahn today joined top law enforcement officials and traffic-safety advocates to issue a call-to-action to eliminate highway fatalities in Maryland. Preliminary data collected by MDOT indicates that in 2016, 523 people died in traffic crashes on the state’s roads, up from the 521 who died in 2015. Across the nation, preliminary numbers from the National Safety Council show roadway fatalities rose by more than six percent last year to more than 40,000 total.
“Every life lost is an avoidable tragedy,” said Transportation Secretary Rahn. “We are counting on you to take responsibility for your life and the life of everyone in your car. Don’t start the car until everyone buckles up. Your life depends on it.”
Over the last two years, from 2014 to 2016, people drove two billion more miles on Maryland roads due to low gas prices and other economic factors. Maryland continues to work hard to make our highways safer by strengthening and enforcing traffic laws, funding roadway improvements, and educating Marylanders about the role they play in highway safety.
Today’s announcement is part of a statewide effort to highlight the ongoing implementation of Maryland’s five-year Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), which brings together federal, state, and local partners and stakeholders to reduce roadway fatalities by 50 percent in the next two decades.
“About 91 percent of drivers and passengers wear their seat belts on our roads,” said MDOT Motor Vehicle Administrator and Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative Christine Nizer. “However, if we were able to obtain 100 percent seatbelt usage, 60 people killed in fatal crashes in 2016 would be alive and be with their families today.”
The SHSP addresses some of the most serious roadway safety concerns, including: preventing impaired, distracted, and aggressive driving; increasing seatbelt use; and improving conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists. The summit highlighted solutions to building a traffic-safety culture in Maryland.
The Hogan Administration has made reducing impaired driving a priority. On May 19, 2016, Governor Larry Hogan signed Noah’s Law,which took effect October 1. Noah’s Law mandates the use of an ignition interlock for those convicted of drunk driving and significantly increases administrative driver’s license suspension periods. An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting when it detects a certain level of alcohol on the driver’s breath and requires the driver to retest at random points while they are driving.
MDOT and its partners reminded drivers to “make a plan” before any trip:
• Have a safe and sober ride. Use a designated driver, call a cab or ride share, or use public transportation.
• Park the phone before you drive. Distractions lead to more than 28,000 injuries per year in Maryland.
• Always buckle up! It’s the single most important way to save your life in a crash.
• ADAPT your driving behavior. Leave a little early. You won’t feel the need to speed or drive aggressively.
• Look twice for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists, especially when changing lanes or approaching an intersection.
• Use crosswalks and bike lanes. Be visible on the road. Wear bright clothing, and cross where drivers expect to see you.
• Move over when approaching an emergency vehicle or tow truck using visual signals. If you are unable to move over, slow down.
“Our motorists need to do the simple things like buckling up, always driving sober, and never driving distracted,” stated MDTA Police Chief Colonel Jerry Jones. “When that doesn’t happen, officers are writing tickets or worse, responding to a deadly crash. Our traffic laws are in place to save lives.”
Learn more about the MDOT Highway Safety Office’s Toward Zero Deaths campaign at towardzerodeathsmd.com/, on Facebook at @towardzerodeathsmd, on Twitter at @tzd_maryland, and on Instagram at twdzerodeaths_md. For the latest MDOT News, follow us on twitter @MDOTNews and #MDOTNews.