I pay close attention to our law enforcement and court reports. I take note in my mind on certain things going on in our community. One thing I've been paying attention to, is where people are getting pulled over at, and what they end up getting ticketed for.
It might be a strange habit, but I've always paid attention to traffic issues wherever I am. Part of that comes from a cousin of mine. He was a football star, in college, had a lot going for him and a tragic accident took his life. I was only 13. It was a shock to most of the family. The details of the accident were fairly vague. I was told he hit a telephone pole and died quickly, probably painlessly.
But the incident impacted me in the years leading up to freedom. That golden driver's license. For a 15-year old it was like a ticket to heaven. I couldn't wait to run errands, like go to the grocery store to get milk. Driving myself to school was a big deal too. I suddenly became driver for my older sister and younger brother who were without the ticket to freedom. One habit that started almost immediately, was keeping my seatbelt on. I also was purposely terrified by my driver's education teacher on how we were, “driving a death mobile on wheels, a weapon.”
We've received several public safety announcements, “click it, or ticket.” While some of the public might not see the importance of a seatbelt, I can attest to a few accidents that belt kept me in place. While talking to our local trooper from the Montana Highway Patrol, Mitchell Willett, a few weeks back it kind of dawned on me that some in the community might not understand that these guys aren't pulling us over to make a day miserable.
Willett explained to me how they pull people over in hopes of slowing people down, getting them to pay attention to the road and hopefully get a seatbelt on someone that could save a life in the future. His sentiments on traffic issues, particularly in the summer, was that these stops were his way of helping to save a life, if not then, in the near future.
The severe accident that took place towards Frazer left one man thrown from his seat. No seatbelt, speeding and possibly distracted by substances. Had he worn his seatbelt, the pictures of the car showed he could have been held safely in the space that car engineers plan to hold a person in a severe accident. He probably still would have suffered injuries to his limbs, but not as severely as being thrown from the vehicle. Without a seatbelt, the impact will take you where gravity and centripetal forces will pull you.
Valley County is in District V, along with the rest of Eastern Montana. The entire district saw 25 fatal crashes in 2013, slightly down from the 31 that took place in 2012. It's a small portion of the crashes investigated, 917 in 2013 and 737 in 2012. The numbers tell a story. A story that lined up a lot with what Willett had to say. Most of these fatalities have certain factors involved. Speed, substances, seat belts and distracted driving.
The 2013 Montana Highway Annual Report shows that fatalities statewide are up 10 percent, along with reported crashes up 4 percent. The average crashes per day is 58. Statewide there were 229 fatalities in 203 crashes, that's one fatality every 38 hours. One injury occurs about every 74 minutes.
Times your more likely to be in an accident is between 3 and 4 p.m. Friday's are most likely during the week, and December is a month that sees more accidents occurring. Fatalities occur more between 9 and 10 p.m., that's just as the sun is setting. Saturday's are more likely to be the days that fatal accidents occur and August is the month they seem to occur most.
So what's the point of all this data? What am I really trying to say, what Trooper Willett is trying to say, is to be careful. Take that extra second to put your seatbelt on. Take that extra five to ten minutes to get somewhere so you're not in a rush and trying to exceed the speed limit. Take that extra glance on both sides of the highway before you pull out. It's not just your life you're protecting, it's everyone else's on the roadway. Your car can make an impact on someone else.