by Deb Miller
It’s an unfortunate sign of our times that most Americans probably have been impacted by a traffic fatality.
Whether it’s a family member, friend, friend of a friend, classmate, co-worker or neighbor, the news of a person losing his or her life in such a sudden, violent manner hits like a sledge hammer. Then shock gives way to anguish, heartbreak and sadness.
Imagine a day in this nation when no one receives such devastating news. Think of the impact that would have on families and communities. That thought —which seems so unimaginable today —was the driving force behind the first Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day in 2001. The idea for the observance came from then-Kansas Department of Transportation engineer Larry Emig, who modeled it after the Great American Smoke Out. The Washington, D.C., kickoff of this national event came only a month after the 9/11 attacks when the mood of the nation was still somber. It was a good time for us to think about the things we had control over and what we could do to prevent death and suffering.
Many times I have said that driving is the most dangerous thing any of us will do on a given day. And whether we safely return to our loved ones at the end of the day is, in most cases, within our control. First, we can decide to be attentive when driving —no texting or talking on the phone. We can decide not to drink and drive. We can decide to pull off the road for a break if we’re sleepy. And, we can always wear a seatbelt, whether we are the driver or a passenger.
Beginning today, there will be 20 blogs in this spot leading up to Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day on Oct. 10. They will address many aspects of traffic safety. They will be written by a trauma nurse, the mother of a KDOT worker killed in a work zone, law enforcement officers, transportation experts and others. Please take the time to not only read the blogs, but to make comments.
We can do so much more to protect ourselves and our families. And we can start by refusing to accept that fatalities are simply a natural byproduct of a society that depends on roads and highways.
Deb Miller is Kansas Transportation Secretary.