Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day



October 10, 2012

An early report released by the National Highway and Transportation Administration (NHTSA) estimated there were approximately 32,300 traffic fatalities in 2011. That's about 90 fatalities every single day - one fatality every 16 minutes. Imagine a day with zero traffic deaths where all drivers make a special effort to “Put the Brakes on Fatalities!”

The twelfth annual Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is designed to encourage the public to reduce driver distractions so they and their loved ones do not become one of those statistics.

The goal is to unite the country in achieving one full day of zero traffic deaths by encouraging safer behavior and actions, promoting safer roadways and vehicles, and creating improved ways to handle medical emergencies and enforcement of traffic regulations. Motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of death for all Americans from three to fourteen years old. Whether as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist, cyclist or professional, by working together in a concerted effort, we can make a difference by reducing to zero the number of fatalities occurring on our nation's roads.

October was selected for the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day observance because it is among the peak months for traffic fatalities. In fact, October 9th was the most dangerous day of the year to be on the road in 1999: 207 people died in traffic crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). February 22 was the safest day to be on the road that year: 50 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

Put The Brakes On Fatalities Day promotes:

Safer driving behaviors

A safe driver is an attentive driver. Do not drive when you are tired and do not use your cell phone when driving. If using you cell phone is necessary to handle an emergency call, find a safe place to pull off the road for receiving or making the call. The second behavior is to always wear your seat belt. This should be as normal as closing the door on vehicle that you enter. These two behaviors are supported by information that follows from research reports and other articles.

Breakthrough research by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on real-world driving behavior released by NHTSA in 2006 indicated that driver inattention was the leading factor in most crashes and near crashes. They noted that nearly 80% of the crashes and 65 % of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Cell phone use and drowsiness were mentioned as two of the distractive driver activities observed.

In 2009 Transportation Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood held a Summit on Distracted Driving. In the press release he noted that new research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.

Other research by NHTSA shows that lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger vehicle occupants by 45 percent and child safety seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. The estimated national seat belt use rate for 2008 was 83 percent based on the NHTSA’s National Occupant Use Survey. A U.S. DOT study released in May, 2009 estimates that annually 1,652 lives could be saved and 22,372 serious injuries avoided if seat belt use rose to 90 percent in every state.

In a May of 2009 news release Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Wearing a seat belt costs nothing and yet it's the single most effective traffic safety devise ever invented. We want to let American People know that by failing to wear your seat belt, you not only risk serious injury or death, you also risk getting a ticket.”

Safer Driving Environments.

Despite the recent down trend in numbers of miles driven released by the Federal Highway Administration in February of 2009, poor road conditions and obsolete designs must be addressed in order to reduce highway deaths. Drivers are encouraged to be especially alert this October 10th for roadway conditions such as narrow roads and bridges, narrow shoulders that end in steep slopes or ditches, and intersections that need improvement (new construction, markings and lighting). Encourage state and local officials to give priority to road maintenance and the of design/construction of roadway improvements, such as adding rumple strips, better lighting and reflective signs, creating passing lane on hills and separate turn lanes at high traffic volume intersections, constructing median barriers and widening lanes.

Safer Vehicles.

Proper vehicle maintenance plays an important role in reducing crashes. Check your tires for proper inflation pressure, tread wear and alignment. Winterize your vehicle if you live in a cold climate. Replace worn windshield wipers. If your vehicle has antilock brakes, operate them correctly by "stomping and steering" rather than pumping them. If you are buying a vehicle, consider safety devices and safety ratings as a top priority. Check out the NHTSA Web site at for vehicle safety ratings.

For more traffic safety tips and information, log on to the Put The Brakes On Fatalities Day Web site at

Read Secretary LaHood’s blog and the other 19 stories on KDOT’s Blogspot website at