County sees decline in traffic deaths, stats nationally still troubling
The recent snowfall may have caused a flurry of traffic accidents, but according to Albemarle County police, traffic fatalities have declined for the fourth year in a row, with an almost 60 percent decrease between 2002 and 2006.
Indeed the numbers are striking, especially considering the increasing traffic volume on County roads in recent years. According to the County, there were eight traffic deaths in 2006, compared to 11 in 2005, 14 in 2004, 17 in 2003, and a whopping 22 in 2002. Statewide, there were 947 traffic fatalities in 2005.
From a national perspective, the traffic fatality rate amounts to highway carnage that makes the threat of terrorism seem quaint. Since 1994, between 40,716 and 43,443 people have died in traffic-related fatalities each year, according to the National Center for Statistics & Analysis. Statistically, that's a pretty small percentage, considering that roughly 6.2 million traffic accidents are reported each year, but that's over 480,000 people killed in the last 12 years! And even if you don't own a car you're in trouble: 5,849 pedestrians and cyclists were killed by cars in 2005.
According to Albemarle Poiice Chief John F. Miller, the decrease in fatalities locally has to do with increased traffic enforcement, better driver education, and more people using their seat belts.
In a recent release, Miller encouraged local drivers to help continue the trend by wearing seat belts, driving within the speed limit, and "not getting behind the wheel after drinking."
Not surprisingly, half (four) the fatalities last year were in alcohol-related crashes, and speed was a factor in three of the fatalities. Four of the deaths took place on Route 29 or near the County's "urban ring area," while four others occurred in rural areas to the south, east, and northwest of the county.
Three deaths occurred while the driver was wearing a seat belt, while four were not buckled in. In three of the fatal accidents, a passenger who was wearing a seat belt survived. Finally, there was one pedestrian fatality.