Roadway Fatalities in OK Decreased: It’s Too Soon to Get Excited…
Betsey Kulakowski, CSHO, COSS
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office released its crash statistics for our state. The statistics come from the nearly 80,000 crash reports submitted to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) during 2019. In all, officials say the number of fatalities on Oklahoma roadways dropped from 655 in 2018 to 640 in 2019. Oklahoma also saw a significant drop in motorcycle fatalities; from 89 in 2018 to 66 in 2019. There were 399 fewer people injured in crashes during the same time period.
While this is good news, crash statistics as it relates to the pandemic are not so good. According to the National Safety Council, in the US we saw an 18% increase in fatal crashes in the month of March – a time when many states were under lock-down orders or safe-at-home restrictions. Oklahoma’s law enforcement community reported an increase in the number of high-rate-of-speed tickets issued during that time frame. One Trooper clocked a driver going 110 mph on I-35 in Payne County.
“The faster you go when you crash, the more likely the injuries are going to be more severe,” said Trooper Paul Timmons. The fine for exceeding the speed limit by 36 or more miles per hour is $449. Still, that is not enough to deter some drivers from putting the pedal to the metal.
Speeding endangers everyone on the road: In 2018, speeding killed 9,378 people in the US. Unfortunately, it is likely to get worse. Officials recently announced that speed limits will be increasing on some Oklahoma highways in the coming months.
Speeding is more than just breaking the law. The consequences are far-ranging:
- Greater potential for loss of vehicle control.
- Reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment.
- Increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger.
- Increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries.
- Economic implications of a speed-related crash; and
- Increased fuel consumption/cost.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the economic cost of speed-related crashes is more than $40.4 billion each year and speed was a contributing factor in 25% of all traffic fatalities in 2017.
So, why do people speed? Speeding is a type of aggressive driving behavior. Several factors have contributed to an overall rise in aggressive driving. Some of those contributing factors include traffic congestion or running late. Drivers may feel a sense of anonymity when they are behind the wheel. For others, it is a general disregard for the safety of others, and the law.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace, wherever their employees are present as a condition of their employment. While employers may not have any control over what other drivers do, they need to address the driving behaviors of their own employees. The best offense is a good defense – defensive driving that is. Having a solid transportation safety program that includes defensive driver’s training can help instill positive driving behaviors in your employees both on and off the clock.
For more information on what your company can do to help reduce the likelihood of a crash-related fatality, visit: www.ourdrivingconcern.org
For more on defensive driver’s training, visit our website at www.oksafety.org/defensivedrivingcourses. OSC in-person training available at your site or at ours, as well as on-line training options.