JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – With millions of Americans will taking road trips 50 miles or longer during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, AMR paramedics are urging drivers to focus on safety.
“The risk of a fatal vehicle crash has increased substantially in the U.S. since 2014 and the large majority of folks aren’t aware of the greater risk,” said Stan Alford, operations manager for AMR’s operation based in Jackson. “Deaths from vehicular crashes increased in 2015 a startling 7.6 percent over 2014, the first time in 50 years the US saw an increase in annual traffic fatalities. 2016 continued the trend with 5.6 percent more deaths than 2015.”
“We hope those grim statistics will stiffen everyone’s resolve to drive safely not just during the year-end holidays, but every day of the year,” Alford said.
Alford drew his figures from National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reports.
NHTSA said the jump in vehicular deaths is related to job growth and low fuel prices. Those factors contributed to more miles driven, including increased leisure driving and increased driving by young people.
NHTSA cited speeding, drinking while driving and failing to buckle up as among major forms of “reckless behaviors” contributing to the spike in highway deaths. In 2015, almost one in ten fatal crashes involved a “distracted driver” who was using a cell phone or who was otherwise not paying full attention to the road. Driving while sleepy was another big factor in the spike in crash deaths. Alford advised drivers to:
· Be sure the vehicle and the drivers are in good condition.
· Have the vehicle serviced before the trip. Especially check the tires, brakes, windshield wipers, headlights, tail-lights, belts and hoses.
· Be sure the driver is alert at all times. Drivers should be well-rested before departing.
· Take frequent breaks. Switch drivers every two hours or less. If all drivers get drowsy, go to a motel and sleep. Do not pull off the road, take a short nap and then resume driving.
· Schedule the trip so you drive mainly if not totally during daylight hours. Start your trip early enough to avoid rushing to reach your destination. Expect heavy traffic and delays.
· Stay on interstates and divided four-lane roads all you can. Avoid two-lane roads if possible.
· Insist that everyone in the vehicle wears safety belts or uses a child safety seat anytime the vehicle is moving, no matter how short the trip. Almost half of those killed in vehicle crashes were not wearing a safety belt.
· Avoid distractions behind the wheel. Turn cell phones off and put them out of reach.
· To make your vehicle more visible, drive with headlights on, day and night.
· Remove items on dashboards and rear view mirrors which may restrict the driver’s view.
· Holiday traffic often includes big, slow recreational vehicles. Be on the lookout for them, especially on hills and curves.
· Impatience can kill. Observe the speed limit. Don’t pass in no-pass zones. Don’t rush through yellow lights to beat the red light.
· If your vehicle begins to fail, pull off to the road shoulder. Park as far as you can from the traffic. Pulling off at an exit ramp is safer than parking next to the main road.
· Designated drivers save lives. Never drink and drive.