According to recently released statistics, 225 people were killed in a motor vehicle accident in Nebraska in 2014, marking the highest fatality rate in seven years. Fred Zwonechek, Nebraska’s highway safety administrator, called the 225 fatalities “frustrating because traffic deaths climbed … in spite of increases in traffic safety initiatives involving increasing driver awareness and increasing traffic enforcement.” Zwonecheck blames complacency for the increase in fatalities, pointing to unsafe practices such as not buckling up, drinking and driving and speeding as well as talking or texting on a phone, or not being alert or otherwise distracted behind the wheel. He also stresses the importance of being a good role model for children by practicing what we preach to them regarding driving safety. “Children hear the message, but from toddlers to teens they observe the actions of their parents and other adults as passengers. They see them not buckling up, talking/texting, speeding, drinking and getting behind the wheel,” he said, “and those same adults can’t understand why their own kids don’t follow the rules and acceptable practices as they start to drive.”
Additional fatal-crash statistics for 2014 include:
- 55 of the deaths occurred on urban roadways and 170 occurred on rural roads.
- 20 of the fatalities involved motorcycles.
- 107, or 53 percent of the 203 fatal crashes, involved a single vehicle.
- Common factors among the crashes were motorists driving too fast for conditions, driving under the influence, driving while distracted or fatigued, and exceeding the speed limit.
- Many of these crashes involved a vehicle leaving the roadway and rolling over and/or hitting an object.
- The biggest cause of death was the lack of seat-belt use.
- A lot of these rollover crashes are very survivable if they were belted. Many wouldn’t even result in serious injuries if they were just using seat belts,’’ he said. “It is the ejection or partial ejection that generally causes the loss of life.”
Zwonecheck also said that the following methods are best for getting the message across about safe driving habits:
- Targeting specific drivers who are overrepresented in crashes — such as teens, male drivers ages 18-34, and repeat drunk drivers — and supporting enforcement operations.
- Targeting high-crash areas by time of day, day of week and time of year.
- Emphasizing underage alcohol enforcement, sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, national enforcement, and education efforts to promote seat-belt use and deter impaired and distracted driving.