States Ramp Up Traffic Safety Initiatives Ahead of Deadly Summer Travel Season
As traffic volumes rise, State Highway Safety Offices increase efforts to protect road users
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With more Americans returning to the road and millions expected to take summer road trips, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is alerting motorists that State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and their partners are stepping up programs to make sure the nation’s roads are safe for everyone.
Traffic is expected to come roaring back this year after a significant drop-off in 2020 due to the pandemic. Approximately 34 million Americans are planning road trips over the Memorial Day weekend, a 52% increase over last year, according to AAA. Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season and what is referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days” due to a historic increase in traffic fatalities between late May and the Labor Day weekend. The increase in travel also comes as state and federal officials conduct the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt outreach and enforcement campaign.
“Everyone is excited to reconnect now that America is opening up. As more people take to the road this summer, our focus on safety during the pandemic needs to extend to the driver’s seat,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Remember to buckle up, drive sober, stow your cellphone and drive the speed limit. We shouldn’t compound the many deaths caused by COVID with additional loss of life on our roads – that is preventable.”
Of particular concern to GHSA and its members is evidence that unsafe driving behaviors – speeding, drunk and drugged driving, distraction, and not buckling up – increased during the pandemic. Adding more vehicles to the road at a time when dangerous driving is rampant is a recipe for more crashes, injuries and deaths.
Just last week, GHSA released new data indicating 2020 is projected to have seen a dramatic 21% increase in the rate of pedestrian deaths, the largest jump in the history of federal record-keeping.
States and territories are working with partners to remind the public about safe driving practices and relevant laws through a range of community outreach and engagement efforts, combined with high visibility enforcement of lifesaving seat belt, speeding, drunk driving and other traffic safety laws.
As more families take to the road beginning Memorial Day weekend, states are ensuring that adults are buckled up and children are properly secured in an appropriate car seat:
New York is reminding drivers to buckle up with the help of NASCAR driver Ross Chastain. As part of the “Protect Your Melon” campaign, watermelons with stickers labeled “Protect Your Melon – Buckle Up” are being distributed to retailers across the state.
California law enforcement agencies are focusing on unrestrained drivers and passengers and ensuring that children are secured in the correct child safety seat.
In Washington State, mothers have recorded short videos asking their teen drivers to buckle up, using positive community norming principals to encourage seat belt use by the age group with the lowest belt usage but the highest crash risk.
Colorado is partnering with bordering states on a “State2State: Buckle Up” campaign. The goal is to reduce the number of unbuckled fatalities as people travel into Colorado by reminding them no matter what state you are in, buckling up is the law.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is reminding teen drivers to buckle up with age and culturally appropriate social media and radio-based messages, as well as peer-manned checkpoints to encourage seat belt compliance and promote it as the social norm.
Drunk and drugged driving is also a focus of state safety efforts throughout the summer, especially during the Independence Day holiday:
Rhode Island is unveiling a new television and social media campaign where motorcyclists and their families share real-life stories about impaired riding and its devastating impact.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office is debuting a new summer travel campaign to remind drivers to “Keep Summer Alive.” Motorists are reminded that if you have been enjoying time on the water, make sure you have a sober ride home.
SHSO and law enforcement officials in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama are collaborating to detect and remove drunk and drugged drivers from the road through their annual “Hands Across the Border” safety campaign.
Indiana is offering ride-hailing coupons on Memorial Day and Labor Day through its Sober Ride Indiana program. The SHSO is also partnering with police agencies to increase enforcement of unsafe riding practices to prevent alcohol-related motorcycle crashes.
North Dakota is offering ride-hailing vouchers through the ND Sober Ride program to reduce impaired driving by encouraging those who have been drinking to leave the driving to someone else.
Amid an uptick in excessive speeding during the pandemic, states are working to remind drivers of the dangers of not following posted speed limits:
The Minnesota State Patrol, sheriffs’ offices and police departments are conducting high visibility enforcement across the state to stop speeding and aggressive driving from further devastating lives.
The Connecticut Highway Safety Office is conducting a public outreach campaign about the dangers of speeding that is coupled with high visibility enforcement.
The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s annual “Operation Southern Shield” speed enforcement and awareness campaign will take place during the third week in July.
Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin are increasing enforcement and public outreach to address speeding drivers.