Editor’s Note: Traffic safety, not just a topic for the holidays

July 2, 2007

The Department of Public Safety said 494 people were killed on Minnesota roads last year, a drop of nearly 12 percent from 2005 and the lowest number since 1945.

Summer holidays like the 4th of July are always a great time for law enforcement, government officials and yes, the insurance industry, to remind people about traffic safety issues. But as we head into this holiday, it is obvious that some Midwestern states are getting hard-nosed about enforcing traffic safety laws on roads, waterways and even pedestrian walkways and – not just around the holidays.

Take Minnesota

Minnesota recently released a study saying that “smarter drivers and more aggressive policing” were credited with cutting traffic deaths in Minnesota last year to their lowest level in 60 years the Associated Press reported. The Department of Public Safety said 494 people were killed on Minnesota roads last year, a drop of nearly 12 percent from 2005 and the lowest number since 1945. The overall death toll included 70 motorcyclists, 38 pedestrians, eight bicyclists, three snowmobilers and two ATV riders, according to the agency’s annual report on traffic crashes.

The state’s Office of Traffic Safety said the 494 traffic fatalities represented a decrease from 559 a year earlier and came close to the 449 deaths reported in 1945. The worst year on Minnesota roads was 1968, when 1,060 people died.

Increased seat belt use and renewed efforts by police to stop motorists for drunken driving and not wearing seat belts were some of the reasons cited for the improvement. Other factors may be media campaigns aimed at educating the public and promoting safer driving habits, safer cars and advances in trauma care.

The seat-belt compliance rate last year was 83 percent statewide, according to the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report. Of the 373 motor vehicle occupants killed last year, 52 percent were not wearing seat belts, the report said.

Look at Michigan, Illinois, South Dakota

About a month ago Michigan police got tough and issued more than 18,000 safety belt citations during a two-week crackdown. Federal safety grants helped pay for the project, which ran May 21 to June 3 in several communities across the state. Preliminary results from the project were announced by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, the Associated Press account said.

Officers wrote 13,176 citations in grant-funded safety belt enforcement zones, located in 55 counties. The other tickets came from law enforcement agencies that voluntarily agreed to make safety belt enforcement a priority during the period.

Of the tickets issued, 777 were because children under four years old were not properly restrained in a child safety seat.

In Illinois, the state legislature recently passed one of the toughest graduated drivers licensing programs in the country. Since drivers under the age of 18 have the most accidents, stricter, longer and more parent-involved training periods for young drivers will help cut down on injuries and accidents too.

And finally, Sioux City, S.D., drivers were listed as the safest drivers in the country by Allstate Insurance Co. Other Midwestern cities were listed in the top 10, such as Flint and Warren, Mich. (See page 8, “Allstate awards cities free gas for safe driving records.”) All of the above are great reasons to have a safe and Happy 4th of July.

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Insurance Journal West July 2, 2007
July 2, 2007
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