An ambitious dream

By Larry Emig
     "Imagine...a day with ZERO traffic fatalities" was the first Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day message shared in 2001 when the program was initiated during an October 10th Ceremony on the  steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.  In the five years leading up to 2001 nearly 42,000 fatalities were occurring each year on our nation's roadways.  This meant nearly 115 individuals died every day or one every 13 minutes.
     In recent years, the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day program has supported other organizations by promoting "Towards ZERO Fatalities - One Day at a time."  During this time, our specific safety message "Don't be Driven by "Distraction - Drive to Arrive," has focused on the distracted driver.   This was done to address the increasing number of fatalities caused by the use of mobile phones.
     Since 2007, there has been a steady decline in the total number of fatalities from slightly over 41,000 to nearly 32,400 in 2011 or the latest year with NHTSA's official fatality count.  This is an average of nearly 90 per day or one every 16 minutes.
     Good things have happened involving traffic safety the last several years to help bring about the reduction in fatalities – seat belt usage rates have increased, improvements have been made to roadway designs, continued maintenance and new construction have been occurred on many roadways, and enhancements have been made to vehicular safety.  On the other hand, distracted driving has skyrocketed, impaired driving is still a major concern and seat belt use amongst teen is not nearly as high as we would like.  Progress has been made, however, there is still work to be done.
     On behalf the Kansas Put the Brakes of Fatalities Day Committee, I want to thank each person who wrote a safety blog for the 2013 series as well as to everyone who has read them and shared them with others. We’ve heard from people across Kansas who have told us about many personal experiences - from their lives being saved by seat belts to losing loved ones and dealing with terrible crashes.
     Since we began this program, many states have participated in activities as part of the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day campaign.  It is important that safety messages are being spread across the country. Bottom line – we want you to be safe where ever you travel.
     When I first promoted this safety campaign 12 years ago, the idea was to have a day without fatalities across the U.S.  While I know that’s an ambitious dream, I think it’s one to keep working towards so that one by one, we put the brakes on fatalities.

Larry Emig initiated the national Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day safety campaign in 2001. Larry was the Chief of the Bureau of Local Project and retired from the Kansas Department of Transportation in 2006 and is still very active in finding ways to improve traffic safety.


  1. Steve Swartz10/10/2013

    this campaign was a great idea when you came up with it in 2001, Larry, and remains an important safety awareness effort. Congratulations! While the national trend in traffic fatalities is going the right direction, there's still tens of thousands of people dying in crashes every year. It takes a sustained effort to raise awareness of safety issues and Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day has an important role to play in continuing that downward trend in fatalities.

  2. Larry: We can't thank you enough, as the founder of Put the Brakes on Fatalties Day, for your unceasing efforts to improve safety and save lives.

  3. Anonymous10/10/2013

    Thanks for all your efforts Larry!! Zero fatalities is a great goal!!

  4. Kirk Hutchinson10/10/2013

    Keep spreading the message, Larry! It's working, not as quickly as we'd like maybe, but it is making a difference. Thank you for your efforts to eliminate fatalities on our roadways.

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  6. I am very encouraged about this year's reduction in fatalities (estimated 250 vs. previous 4-year YTD average of 306 as of the end of September). Unfortunately, that number still represents 250 families plus countless friends who will grieve every day for someone they've lost.
    As you point out, Larry, there is still so much to be done - nearly 1/3 of fatalities every year are alcohol-related, people are still not buckling up or wearing helmets, and drivers are more & more distracted with new technology. We must remain vigilant to "put the brakes on fatalities" - not just today, but EVERY day!

  7. I’m proud to be a small part of the campaign to Put the Brake on Fatalities day started right here in Kansas by Larry. We need more safety champions like Larry. Many have become champions for highway safety after a tragic event as we have read in these blogs but it would be better to end the stories. If we could all just put the brakes on fatalities we would no longer have these tragic stories and that is a dream worthy of achieving. Thanks Larry for all you have done for highway safety in Kansas and the country!

  8. Anonymous10/10/2013

    Thank you for your passion, commitment and efforts all focused to improve traffic safety. Many lives have been saved because of you.