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Help make our roads safer this summer

Posted: May 22, 2011 - 9:29pm

Summer means many things to Alaskans, enjoying fishing, hiking, outdoor sports and picnics. But as the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner and the Department of Public Safety Commissioner, we know the long days of daylight inevitably mean more deaths on the road.

There are more traffic deaths in July and August than any other month in Alaska. We’ve already seen more traffic fatalities this year than we have in several years and we are concerned. We are losing too many Alaskans. The sad part is that many of these deaths were 100 percent preventable. Choices with speed, alcohol and seatbelts played a role in many of these tragedies.

This year is shaping up to a record bad year. As of May 13, Alaska has had 24 fatalities — almost double the number of deaths at this same time in 2010, 2009 or 2008. Preliminary reports show that skidding, swerving or sliding due to poor weather and road conditions were involved in 27 percent of the crashes, unsafe speed played a role in 23 percent, driver alcohol was suspected in 18 percent, and driver distraction was involved in 18 percent. Early reports show that eight occupants who died chose not to use their seatbelt. All fatal crashes have multiple factors, meaning a driver can be impaired, distracted and driving in poor weather conditions that all contributed to their demise.

If you already drive at a safe speed, drive sober and use your seatbelt, then our hats are off to you for being part of the solution. We hope you encourage others to do the same.

If you know someone who speeds, drives impaired or doesn’t use a seatbelt — please, please, please talk to them. Their lives are worth the risk of irritating them.

It is better to leave a little early or take a few extra minutes to arrive at a destination then to never arrive at all. Suggest a designated driver plan or if that doesn’t work take their keys. They will thank you in the morning. And most of all, tell them to wear a seatbelt. It takes three seconds to buckle up. Three seconds. We have already lost eight people on Alaska roadways this year because they did not wear their seatbelts.

Remember REDDI: Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately:

If you see a driver doing any of the following things, call 911 and report the car along with its description and location. Please stop at a safe place or have a passenger make the call. Remember, the driver may be ill or intoxicated and shouldn’t be on the road. State and local law enforcement agencies will respond as quickly as possible. Signs may include:

• weaving;

• driving with windows rolled down in cold weather;

• passing dangerously;

• straddling the center line;

• making wide turns;

• driving slowly;

• tailgating;

• or forgetting to turn on headlights.

Please do your part to drive safely and encourage others to do the same. Remember, the life you save may be your own.

Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner Marc Luiken

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters

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