A traffic-safety specialist with the state Department of Transportation is calculating that the year’s total highway fatalities will be no worse than average. Analyst Scott Falb sees similarities with recent years.
The totals are very close to where they were this time in 2000 and 2001. The final fatality count was around 440 those years, and he’s predicting we’ll total between 440 and 445 highway deaths. The count won’t be finalized till spring, when every report has been sent in and anyone who died within 30 days of a crash has been added to the fatality count.
While the stressful traffic of big cities would seem to be a risk for collisions, Falb says there are a couple reasons why rural roads are at least as dangerous. The low “traffic count” of a country road lulls people into carelessness and they do things like run stop signs. Or “they go blasting through intersections” that have no stop signs, on a gravel road where they’ve been driving to work for ten years without coming upon another driver. “The one time that they take it for granted and don’t look closely,” he says, “is the one time that they encounter that one other car.”
He says our mild winter so far may also be a factor in several fatal crashes in recent weeks on rural highways. This year, farmers have been able to work in their fields a lot later than usual, and as a result they’re driving from fields out onto the road much later in the season than we’re used to seeing them out there.