"Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day a great reminder, but road safety is on my mind every day of the year

By Secretary Ray LaHood
Those of you who have benefited from this terrific web page provided by the folks at KDOT know that this weekend the US Department of Transportation, state agencies, and safety advocates across the country will mark an auspicious day. Sunday, October 10, 2010--or 10-10-10--is the 10th anniversary of "Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day.
This is a day when we focus public awareness on driver behavior, vehicle safety, and roadway improvement in an effort to reduce traffic deaths across America. And these efforts are working.
As we announced last month at USDOT, traffic fatalities in 2009 were down considerably from the previous year--even though the number of miles driven went up during the same period. In fact, last year saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1950.
The numbers from the first six months of 2010 are even more encouraging. Road fatalities from January to June of this year are down another 9.2 percent compared to the same period last year. This means we've had 17 straight quarters of year-to-year declines.
But if you know one of the nearly 34,000 people killed on our roadways in 2009--if you lost a loved one--then you know that number is still too high.
So Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is an opportunity for the safety community to highlight important initiatives like Click it, Or Ticket; Over the Limit, Under Arrest; and Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other. And it's a chance for us to remind people that everyone has a personal responsibility to make safe decisions when you get behind the wheel.
It's a chance to take this safety fight to the next level. And that's exactly what's on my mind 365 days a year.
Now, if you read my blog (http://fastlane.dot.gov/) , you know I love many things about my job. But, as you may also know from my rampage against distracted driving, I am also weighed down by the human cost of the crashes on our roadways each year.
Whatever and whoever is involved--car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian--I don't see these preventable deaths as statistics; I take them personally. That's probably why the Washington Post says I approach safety with "evangelical zeal."
I know that each life lost is a hole torn in a family or circle of friends or community.
And each one reminds me of a job unfinished. We have yet to find the silver technological bullet that leads to crash-proof roads and vehicles. We have yet to get 100% of Americans to buckle up. We have yet to keep all drivers from drinking. We have yet to eliminate texting and talking on cell phones behind the wheel.
That's why we need the efforts of all those who participate in Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. They've been doing a terrific job for 10 years--and we must include this innovative K-TOC site as a great addition to KDOT's safety toolkit.
Unfortunately, now is no time to rest. Our roads are safer now than they've ever been, but there is plenty more to do. And, working together, we will make those roads even safer.

Ray LaHood is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation 

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