ONLY 33,963 DEATHS ON U.S. HIGHWAYS LAST YEAR...THAT’S AWESOME!!!
By Tod Hileman
Err...wait a minute, 33,963 deaths is pushing record lows? Sure seems
like a lot of people dying on the highways! If I multiply that number by the
number of years I have left in my Highway Patrol career, that would be, ummm, let’s
see, 4 times 9, carry the 7, no wait? Man, why am I so bad with simple math? Wasn’t
Einstein bad with simple math too? I think he was, which means deep down, I
could be as smart as him right! With all joking aside, that’s a lot of people
needlessly dying on our nation’s highways.
I was going to entitle this blog, <i>How Not to Die While
Driving through Kansas</i>, because I was inspired by an Ohio couple I
was privileged to meet a couple of weeks ago. They were traveling east on I-70
by Colby when their tire blew out at 70 miles per hour. After 18 years in law
enforcement and having to clean up the carnage when people are ejected from a
vehicle, I was expecting the worst as I drove to the scene.
When I arrived, it looked like the normal scene, skid marks leading
into the median, glass debris, car lying on its top completely intact, witness
stating what a violent crash it was, driver and passenger standing by my
partner’s car giving their statement...; Wait a minute, that’s not normal? Why
aren’t the EMT’s putting people on stretchers, waiting for Flight for Life
while they tell them to just hold on? Something very wrong was going on here
and I had to find out.
To solve this mystery we have to look at all the factors involved with
traffic safety. Road design is one of the big ones. Did I mention Kansas was
voted best roads in the nation? Our roads are mostly straight and flat with a
clear line of sight ahead of you. Car design is another big one. Vehicles today
are so much safer than they were 20 years ago with all the safety features
built into them these days, like airbags, traction control, steering assist,
tire pressure monitors, etc.
So what is the common factor in traffic fatalities here in Kansas? To
find that out, let’s go back to 2004. In that year, unbuckled people accounted
for roughly 75% of our state’s fatalities. Hmmm, that’s a pretty big number!
Ok, back to the alive and well Ohio couple. As I was driving them into
Colby to get them a hotel room, they thanked me for taking them there. We
talked about the crash and how their seatbelts held them in place-- ah-ha,
mystery solved! I then thanked them for wearing their seatbelts because it was
a lot easier for me to drive them a few miles than having to contact family
members and tell them some really bad news (worst part of my job).
I should get to the point of this blog. Put the Brakes on Fatalities
Day is coming up on October 10 and is there to remind us that even though we
are having record lows in traffic fatalities, one is too many.
So do me, my partners, society and everyone who loves you a favor, put
on your seatbelt. You don’t have to be Einstein to know you’re much safer with
it on. Oh, and your kids learn from you and someday they will drive off alone
for the first time, so what did you teach them?
Tod Hileman is a Technical Trooper for the Kansas
Highway Patrol in Hays.