The Vermont State Police are stepping up patrols in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities across the state. Law enforcement officers say they’re concerned, because while the number of crashes is not on the rise this year, the severity of the accidents has gotten much worse.
Last year, there were 55 traffic fatalities on Vermont’s roads. This year 50 people have already died and there’s still four months left in the year.
Lt. John Flannigan is the traffic safety commander for the state police. He hopes to get the message out that the severity of accidents has increased dramatically in just the last year.
"Right now as far as we can tell, we’re on a pace of about an average year and not different from what we had last year on overall motor vehicle crashes," said Flannigan. "However our fatalities are much higher than last year."
Flannigan says there are three factors that contribute to virtually every traffic fatality.
"They are occupants not wearing seat belts, drivers operating impaired by either alcohol and or other substances, and the sped that they are traveling. Many in these crashes that are killed as a result are driving too fast."
Flannigan says the state police launched additional enforcement patrols at the beginning of the summer and he thinks they may be having some impact.
"We’ve run well over 40 of those special teams and events throughout the state since July 4th and we will be continuing through the end of Labor Day weekend," said Flannigan. "We’ll also be stepping up enforcement with our Operation Care Friday through Monday over Labor Day weekend with extra officers on the road."
Flannigan says his goal is not to write more traffic tickets but to persuade people to drive more responsibly.
"We’re pleading to the public to drive safely, drive responsibly, and we’re working towards zero deaths. That really is our ultimate goal."
Flannigan says there’s been a recent improvement in traffic safety. He says the number of fatalities during the month of August is below the three-year average.