Summer promises long days and great weather and often means vacations for area residents. That means taking to the highways and roads across the region and, almost inevitably, the summer fun is marred by a deadly vehicle crash.
Focusing on safety while on the road seems so fundamental that the concept can be overlooked or dismissed by motorists. But they shouldn’t ignore road safety.
The importance of safety while driving hit home just this week when U.S. Highway 20 — a major east-west link in Oregon — was closed in Malheur County because of a fatal accident. That crash left one man dead and sealed off the highway for more than three hours as emergency crews responded to the scene and then fought the fires that erupted in the wake of the accident.
Last summer proved to be exceptionally deadly for motorists. Over a span of five days in August last year, 11 people died in traffic accidents across Eastern Oregon, a deadly nexus that created mayhem and impacted dozens of families.
In one of the crashes, eight people died, including children.
It is no secret that speed kills on the highways but sheer carelessness also plays a role.
Two years ago, for example, more than 37,000 people lost their lives on the nation’s roadways. Twenty-six percent of those crashes involved at least one speeding driver.
At first glance a common misconception is big city traffic furnishes most of the fatal accidents, but that isn’t exactly true. Rural areas — including highways that slice through remote portions of the nation — tend to have a higher fatality rate than vehicle accidents in urban areas.
The other tragic aspect of vehicle accidents on rural roads and highways is that most can be avoided. The single best way to avoid a deadly crash is simple: slow down. It seems so simple, so basic, but we are a society that is now constantly in a hurry to get somewhere or do something. As such, we often become complacent and shed common sense and caution for speed.
Summer should be about fun, should be about getting the family together and visiting interesting areas across our great region. That means our goal on our roads and highways should be to reach out destination safely.
The responsibility for safety on our roadways resets with each of us. Once we climb behind the wheel we all have an obligation to be safe and to obey traffic laws.
No one wants to end a summer with a tragedy. So be alert while driving and be careful out there.