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More than 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018; the three main causes of these fatalities – lack of seat belt use, alcohol-impaired driving and speed.
The recent Fourth of July holiday serves as a startling example of these dangers facing us on our roads. The National Safety Council estimates that as many as 565 people may have been killed in crashes over the Independence Day weekend, with up to 64,500 more suffering serious injuries.
Unfortunately, we have become complacent to these everyday risks, regularly accepting 40,000 annual deaths and millions of injuries as the cost of transportation.
We all know this number should be zero and we wanted to share our personal stories to help drive this point home. Though not all of our lives will be impacted by crashes, we can all learn from them and make progress to help keep each other safe on the roads.
I have been in two significant crashes caused by human error; both times, the vehicle was completely totaled. Beyond these two crashes, I have witnessed countless near misses and shocking examples of irresponsible driving, including speeding, unnecessary or dangerous weaving, and tailgating.
Over the years, I have heard even more stories of highway tragedies and completely preventable crashes. These stories stay with me, and my heart breaks for the victims who never made it home. But my own experiences have shown me that safety is everyone’s responsibility.
So how can we make progress? Decades of data and research tell us that setting appropriate speed zones are proven to reduce the likelihood of a crash. This infrastructure countermeasure enables an enforceable strategy to keep drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclist safe. You might have seen speed and red-light cameras in your community. Though some drivers are angered or annoyed by these tools, ask yourself: Would you slow down and drive safer without them?
We embrace monitoring our homes with security cameras, so why do we chafe at monitoring road safety more diligently? The cost of a life is far greater than personal property. Your home is your personal space, but our roads are public and unsafe driver behavior affects your life and the lives of others.
As a fellow driver, pedestrian and human being, I urge you to be mindful of pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders, as well as all motor vehicles. The variety of transportation modes we now see on our roads can create unexpected encounters, so slow down, check your blind spots and give every road user the space they need to be safe.
In 2014, I was involved in a major crash when a distracted driver ran head on into the school vehicle I was traveling in. I sustained serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, facial reconstruction and a burst fracture that nearly caused me to become permanently paralyzed.
My saving grace? The seat belt I was wearing at the time of the crash.
In recent years, however, it seems as though speeding and not wearing a seat belt have become perfectly acceptable behaviors. This national emergency puts all road users at risk, even if, like me, you are a responsible passenger wearing a seat belt. This danger does not get the funding, resources or public attention that it deserves, so we all need to remember: Wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a crash, both as a driver and a passenger.
Creating a new story
Each year, the world sees more than 1.35 million road traffic deaths. Since meeting and sharing our stories with each other, we have used our passions for traffic safety to find new ways to help protect road users. Our goal now is to share our stories in the hopes of educating others and contributing to an entirely new story – a story where everyone makes it home safe.
You can join us on this Road to Zero. Whether you drive to work, ride a bike or scooter to school, work as a local city official or are just a concerned community member, we can all take action to become safer road users and encourage our loved ones to do the same. We know what works. We just have to do it. Here are some ways you can get involved:
Imagine a world in which road traffic crashes are not a burden in our communities across the country. It’s a great story and it’s the one we’re fighting for. Help us write it by taking action today.
Ready to find practical solutions to your safety challenges? Join now.
Our Mission is Safety
The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Donate to our cause.
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.