Another tragic loss

  • Published in Editorials

Another young driver lost his life this week on November 25. A 20-year-old Isle La Motte man died in a car crash in Alburgh. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

Two weeks ago, there were two similar traffic fatalities in one weekend – a 30-year-old man and a 43-year-old man. No seatbelts.

Vermont is facing a scourge of traffic fatalities this year with a disproportionate number of them linked to people who were not wearing their seatbelts. We have to ask ourselves where we’re going wrong when young people are not automatically buckling up. We have to wonder why older people are electing not to buckle up.

After four people were killed – all unbelted – in a car crash in Addison County in August, state police and Vermont Public Safety personnel calculated that in almost 60 percent of fatal crashes in 2017, people weren’t wearing seatbelts.

And that was only through the first part of the month. Since that time there have been multiple other similar tragedies.

There are obviously other reasons for traffic fatalities including impaired, distracted and aggressive driving, but those percentages pale in comparison to fatalities attributed to failure to use a seatbelt.

Impaired driving is associated with 44 percent of traffic fatalities through the beginning of August. Speeding and driving aggressively is associated with 37 percent of fatalities.

Police report that distracted driving fatalities are underreported and are identified as a contributing factor in seven fatal crashes per year. Sadly, that figure is likely to increase based on the sheer number of drivers one sees with their faces now looking at their phones while behind the wheel. And that’s despite Vermont’s hands-free law that prohibits drivers from talking and texting.

After seven unbelted people died in one week in car crashes this summer, Governor Phil Scott said that it may be necessary to change Vermont’s seatbelt law. Currently drivers can’t be stopped for failure to buckle up, but they can be ticketed for it if they are stopped for some other infraction.

He’s right. It’s time to make failure to buckle up a reason for stopping a car, much like using a cellphone or texting or speeding or drinking