In many of my previous year end highway safety messages to Nebraskans I have been able to applaud a decrease in the number of traffic deaths. I am not able to do that for 2012. So far 200 people have lost their lives this year on our state's roadways compared to the 181 deaths recorded in 2011.
The fact is that some of those fatal crashes could have been prevented. Many of those that were fatally injured in these crashes would likely have survived had they just buckled their seat belts.
Nebraska's Strategic Highway Safety Plan is to prevent fatal and injury crashes by working "Toward Zero Deaths." No number of traffic deaths should be acceptable. To reach this goal, local and state traffic safety officials, working with other public and private partners, annually examine crash data to determine crash factors. Working together, they employ the most effective strategies to target the causes of those crashes. The focus is directed toward the roadways, the vehicle, and the roadway users (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists) with efforts in education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency response.
To be successful we will continue to need the cooperation and assistance of all drivers, passengers, and other roadway users. In the previous decade, Nebraskans have demonstrated that we can reach this goal with continued declining traffic fatality numbers.
In 2012, nearly eight out of ten of fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. It is very likely that more than half of those fatally injured victims would have survived, including many that could have walked away from the crash had they just been buckled up.
Four out of every ten traffic fatalities in 2012 was a result of someone driving under the influence of alcohol. Other significant factors in fatal and injury crashes involve failure to yield the right of way to another vehicle, speeding, and disregarding traffic signals.
We need your help. I am asking everyone to please start 2013 by making the following resolutions: to wear a seat belt each and every time you drive or ride in a vehicle and to make sure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up; to never drive or ride with someone who has been drinking; to obey all traffic laws; and to eliminate all driver distractions while behind the wheel. By doing all these things we can make our roads safer and healthier for everyone in 2013.
Highway safety is a partnership. It is vital that drivers and passengers commit to staying safe, sober, focused and buckle every time they are in a vehicle. I encourage every Nebraskan to do whatever it takes to help ensure the safety of their families and fellow travelers. We want you to arrive safely to your destinations this holiday season and all year long.