Thursday, March 12, 2009

A troubling statistic

Some statistics get talked about more than others. The homicide rate, for example, is a frequent topic of discussion in our department, in the community and in the media, as well it should be.

But there’s one number I haven’t heard much about that deserves similar attention: the number of fatal auto crashes so far this year. We have had 128 percent more people die in car accidents in 2009 than we had at the same time in 2008: 16 as of March 11 this year, compared to seven on March 11, 2008.

It’s important to talk about how preventable some of these deaths are. We know that alcohol was involved in the deaths of eight of this year’s accident victims. Of the 14 people killed in vehicles (two of those who died were pedestrians), our investigators have determined that eight were not wearing their seat belts. Another two people were ejected in crashes in which seat belt usage has not officially been determined, but ejection usually means there was no seat belt involved.

The deaths of the people killed in car crashes so far this year largely could have been avoided with such simple actions as clicking a seat belt or designating a driver who hasn’t been drinking alcohol. As a community, we must have as much fervor about ending these needless deaths as we do about ending homicides. Refuse to let anyone who’s been drinking behind the wheel of a car. Buckle up when you drive and demand that all your passengers do, too. Vigilantly watch for pedestrians. Taking these steps may not prevent all vehicle fatalities, but it will stop the vast majority.

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