Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
I want to focus this week on road safety. Regardless of whether it is the daily commute to and from work or school, or a special trip to visit friends and relatives, the message of road safety is particularly important during this time of year. Accidents are a reality on our nation's roadways. The potential for getting into an accident exists even when we take the proper precautions and do all the right things.
In Nebraska, safety and highway officials work closely to find ways of reducing traffic crashes and helping to prevent accidents created by careless or negligent behavior of those on the road.
Traffic fatalities on Nebraska roadways are 18 percent lower than the same date last year. Nebraska is on pace to end 2010 with one of the lowest annual fatality totals recorded since the state began tracking data prior to World War II.
As of today, 170 fatalities have been recorded for 2010, which is down from 207 last year and lower than the three year average of 223 crash fatalities. In addition, the number of crashes and injuries are lower than in previous years.
In spite of the progress in reducing fatal crashes, for every fatality another 50 people are injured on streets, sidewalks and highways across Nebraska. Each accident represents a significant burden for individuals and communities in terms of medical costs, clean-up and repairs.
The Nebraska Departments of Health and Human Services, Motor Vehicles, Roads, and the Nebraska State Patrol have worked together to develop and implement the Nebraska Strategic Highway Safety Plan to focus attention on prevention measures in each of the five priority issues with the greatest potential to reduce fatalities and injuries: increasing the use of seat belts and proper child restraints, preventing impaired driving, tackling issues associated with inexperienced drivers, and addressing accidents that occur in intersections and as a result of lane departures.
Many effective strategies have been implemented during the past five years, which are important in lowering the number of crash-related fatalities and injuries. However, there are clear challenges.
While more than eight of every 10 Nebraska vehicle passengers regularly use seat belts, among those killed in crashes, seven of 10 individuals were not wearing a seat belt. While alcohol is reportedly involved in one of every 34 crashes, it plays a larger role in fatal collisions. Data show alcohol is a factor in one in every five fatal crashes.
Winter weather provides a separate set of challenges during this time of year, so in the coming weeks please do your part to prevent crashes by giving your full attention to walking, riding or driving, by ensuring that you and any passengers are buckled up, and by reporting any suspected drunk driver by dialing *55 or 911, and by always driving defensively.
During the holidays, the State Patrol is stepping up enforcement efforts across the state and has posted several upcoming traffic enforcements online. Motorists can access a partial listing of locations and times under the Quick Links box on the NSP website, www.statepatrol.ne.gov, and clicking 'NSP Enforcement Activities.'
The Nebraska Office of Highway Safety is providing grants to 60 sheriff and police departments for 7,000 hours of increased enforcement in the coming weeks for sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and underage drinking enforcement activities.
I am confident that by working together as motorists and passengers, we can continue to save lives and reduce injuries in our state. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.