What number of highway deaths is acceptable?December 22nd, 2013 by ed friedrich
Of the 85.8 million Americans who’ll be traveling over the
holidays, only 261 of them will be killed in car crashes.
AAA projects a record 85.8 million people will journey 50 miles or more from home. The National Safety Council estimates 105 will be killed in traffic over Christmas and 156 over New Year’s.
It brings to mind the commercial by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission that asks people on the street what the annual goal should be for the number of traffic deaths in Washington. Most answer in the hundreds or even thousands. Then they’re asked what the goal should be for number of family members killed in traffic. Of course, they all say zero.
The ad is part of the commission’s “Target Zero” campaign that aims to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. That might never happen, but it’s worth a try.
Thirty-four thousand people died on the roads last year. In Washington, there were 437 traffic deaths; in Kitsap County, 22. How far do you supposed they would plummet if drivers weren’t drunk, high, speeding or messing with their phones? By half? Three-quarters? How many are preventable?
Though macabre, the National Safety Council provides holiday traffic fatality estimates to remind people to drive defensively and make smart decisions. One would be not to drink and drive. Forty-two percent of all New Year’s highway deaths are related to booze. Christmas is at 35 percent, according to Safety+Health magazine.
Car breakdowns are no fun either, but they beat dying or getting hurt in a crash. AAA says of those 85.8 million Americans on the roads during the holidays, it will have to rescue 3.76 million, including 15,000 in Washington and northern Idaho. The main reasons will be dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
People will be driving farther, AAA says. The average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, up 45 miles from last year. They’re projected to spend $765, also slightly more. Top activities include visiting with friends and family (74 percent), dining (70 percent) and shopping (51 percent).
The vast majority of people traveling over the holidays — 91 percent — will be doing it by car. Fortunately for them, gas prices aren’t too bad, averaging $3.31 per gallon in Washington for a gallon of regular unleaded. That’s six cents less than last year.
If you’re driving across the county to visit the grandparents or popping around the corner to the grocery store, watch out for the other guy and don’t give them any reason to watch out for you. If we all do that, maybe Target Zero isn’t out of reach.